Alabama breast cancer survivor Carla Youngblood: Don’t let illness define you
The path of life isn’t easy for everyone. But the lens in which one views their circumstances is all important.
For Carla Youngblood, keeping a positive perspective helped her beat a deadly, triple-negative breast cancer nearly four years ago. A professional comedienne, Youngblood releases her 174-page book, “Cancer Ain’t Funny! Laugh Anyway …,” on Oct. 20.
When she was diagnosed, Youngblood knew a tough road lay ahead. But she vowed to face adversity head on, through a positive outlook and laughter. Having won her cancer battle, Youngblood has made it her mission to help others fight the good fight. The comedienne has taken her message cross-country, telling other women and men that they, too, can and will beat the odds.
The picture of health, Youngblood is defiantly vibrant: Her face lights up with a broad smile, she bubbles with laughter and she jokes about cancer. Indeed, Youngblood calls a “merry heart” and a good attitude a form of medicine. She knows from experience that patients need a “spirit lifter.”
“I figured I had to share my story, and see if I could give others a different perspective,” said Youngblood, who in 2015 discovered she had one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.
“It’s doom and gloom for some people, even after they’re OK,” Youngblood said. “They act like it’s all their life story. But if you’re alive, you’re moving, you’re still breathing, you still have a chance. That’s what I want people to see.”
Facing up to cancer
Cancer led Youngblood down a path of numerous therapies: mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and preventative medicines.
A trained breast cancer advocate for Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center in Birmingham, Youngblood shares her experiences and her time with newly diagnosed patients. She attends doctor visits, takes notes and asks questions that a shell-shocked patient may forget. Most importantly, Youngblood listens and encourages women after their diagnosis.
“I give a positive outlook,” Youngblood said. “When I’m on stage, I try to make people smile and forget their troubles, even if for a small while, to put their thoughts elsewhere. I’ve always been a happy-to-lucky person,” added Youngblood, who attributes her spirit to being the baby in a family of five children.
“I always cut up and make people laugh, and make my family smile,” she said. “I always see things a little differently. I have thoughts about stuff that puts a smile on my face. If you learn to laugh at yourself and not be so serious, you can handle life a whole lot better.”
Youngblood’s strategy has always been to be upbeat, even when she realized in September 2015 that she had a health problem. She felt an odd pain in her chest, but only at night. For a few days, she cast off her worry as heartburn. When she visited Dr. April Maddux at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, she got the news.
“It was two tumors that had been connected – one was at the 2 o’clock position and the other was at the 10 o’clock position,” she said.
From there, Youngblood underwent a battery of tests: mammograms, ultrasounds, blood work and a biopsy. From Nov. 5 to Aug. 8, she had 16 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by 28 radiation treatments. In December 2016, she underwent a hysterectomy.
“I couldn’t wait to see the end of 2016,” Youngblood admitted.
Thriving after adversity
Youngblood advises women to listen to their bodies. Since she got her clean bill of health following breast cancer, Youngblood has given many motivational speeches about how to move forward after adversity. On Oct. 11, Youngblood spoke to about 50 businesswomen for the Women’s Network at the Harbert Center in Birmingham.
“No two people are alike: The cancer is different, the doctor is different, the body is different,” Youngblood said. “Adversity has its own weight – it depends on who’s having to carry it. You have to find a way to move forward.
“One thing that I always share is that people have different kinds of adversity,” she said. “Having a spouse that dies after 75 years – now that’s adversity.”
Always seeking the bright side, Youngblood said her life experiences have provided plenty of material for her comedy show.
“There’s a joy that’s inside of me,” she said. “When I volunteer at Forge and share with the other ladies, or when I’m on stage, I give a positive outlook. Most things you have no control over, but you have control over your response. That’s how I choose to live.”
Meet Youngblood at her book signing on Sunday, Oct. 20, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Little Professor Book Center, 2844 18th St. South in Birmingham.
(Courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)