Ahern: Roylette Luckey, breast cancer survivor
By Patti Ahern Citizen Journalistfirstname.lastname@example.org December 27, 2012 3:06PM
Roylette Luckey, of Chicago’s Beverly community, is a breast cancer survivor who is organizing a fundraiser for other breast cancer survivors on Nov. 16 at Marriott Chicago Midway. | Supplied Photo
Updated: January 31, 2013 6:17AM
There are breast cancer stories that are frightening, heart-wrenching and profoundly sad, but this story is none of those things.
This breast cancer story is about hope, health, family and reaching out to others, and it begins about 16 years ago. Roylette Luckey, of Chicago’s Beverly community, was 28 years old.
Seeking out her doctor for what she thought was a sore breast as a result of bumping it in the shower, Luckey was treated for a bad infection. Months went by with no improvement.
Finally, her doctor suggested a mammogram, and when Luckey was called back the same day, the speed of the call-back gave her more than an inkling that something was wrong.
“I was terrified,” Luckey said. “I had a little girl, and I was just terrified. I asked God and told him, ‘This is not for me.’”
Luckey had immediate surgery, but when she went in, she was not sure just how extensive the surgery might be. The amount of tissue removed was dependent upon what was found during surgery and, as it happened, given the extent of her cancer, Luckey had to have her right breast removed, along with all the lymph nodes around her arm on that side of her body.
Still groggy from surgery, and not even knowing the outcome, she remembers coming back to her room to find about 30 people who were waiting for her.
“I didn’t know what happened,” Luckey said. “All I knew was that my lip was numb, and when I went into the room I was crying. I told everyone that I bit my lip and I was crying about that because I wanted to look pretty for them. Everyone just cracked up.”
It wasn’t until much later that Luckey felt around her chest, felt all the bandages and realized the extent of her surgery. She didn’t have time to feel sorry for herself, though. She was busy running her own business, and she also had to pay for her surgery because she didn’t have insurance.
“I couldn’t focus on what I didn’t have,” Luckey said. “I went back to work about two months later. I paid surgery out of pocket — it took about two years — but I had a daughter and a godson that I raised as my little boy. I just had to do what I had to do to survive for my family.”
In addition to paying for her surgery, Luckey discovered other ongoing expenses that came as a result of her cancer. Various mastectomy products can cost in the range of $300 or more, and even the special bras she must wear cost $45 to $50.
She knew she wasn’t the only woman who had to pay so much for necessary items, so she got an idea to raise money for women who needed help with paying for their mastectomy products or mammograms.
Toward that end, she recently held a fundraiser at Ellie’s Cafe, 10701 S. Hale Ave., Chicago, and arranged other fundraising efforts, as well. The success of her prior efforts gave Luckey the courage to organize many more fundraisers, and as a result, she tries to do a fundraiser every two months, with a large formal dinner event planned as a fundraiser for Nov. 16.
Calling it a “small and intimate” gathering, Luckey has more than 170 people already signed up to attend her dinner, which will be held at Marriott Chicago Midway, 6520 S. Cicero Ave., Chicago.
“We as family and friends — well, we want this first event to be intimate, mostly family and friends.,” Luckey said. “But I want to do the same thing in 2014, and I want this to grow, always focusing on the survivors’ needs. I want to honor those women who are still fighting.”
Luckey’s daughter, Claudia Mister, said she was about 8 years old when her mother was diagnosed.
“I remember family coming over but I didn’t know it was breast cancer,” Mister said. “I just thought she was sick. I didn’t know until I got older.
“I support her and I think it is awesome she tries to help people. I love her so much because she gives from the heart. She took a drastic situation and turned it around and made it positive.”
Roylietrich Brown, Luckey’s sister, plans on attending the November event next year and, like Mister, Brown is happy to support Luckey.
“I am so excited about this next year. I’m happy to do this for Puddin’,” Brown said, referring to Luckey by her family nickname.
“I’m hoping to see great things for my sister. She puts forth so much effort, and I want it to work for her. She is a good person, always helping someone else, always doing something for someone. Both my sisters are like that.
“I can’t tell enough about my sister — she’s great.”
Luckey, who had tears in her eyes over her sister’s comments, said she shows love to people every day.
“I honor and show love to others daily, the same way my mother, Barbara Evans, did before she passed away over 29 years ago,” Luckey said.
“I do what I do in honor of my mother, and a lot of my friends have passed away. I want to honor them and others.”
Luckey’s event is open to the public, with tickets becoming available next month.
To attend the event or to become a sponsor, contact Luckey at (773) 562-1451 or email her at email@example.com.