I've always admired her. Her strength, her loyalty and her style. Micha Logan is my cousin...but she's no ordinary person. She's the one you call when somebody did you wrong and you need someone to have your back when you go to confront them. She's the cousin you call when you are having any family gathering...if she's in town, she will be there, come hell or high water. She is the one who will drive cross-country to attend a friend's baby shower. She's the woman that you won't catch slipping, her nails stay right, her hair is always point and when she steps out, she always slays in a fresh outfit with high heels or Jordan's to set it off. She's the one that will not leave your house until every dish is washed and the kitchen sink is clean and dry. She's that "real friend" that always keeps it 100 and will tell you when your breath stinks or if you're being petty. She's the one that is always there for others but rarely asks for help...she's the one who is strong for everybody else.
So when she was the one that was in need of support after receiving the devastating diagnosis of breast cancer at 31, I had to see her. As I walked up to her door, I hesitated. I didn't know what to say, I'd never known anyone close to me or related to me that had dealt with cancer. As she shared the events of the days prior, all I could do was listen, fight back the tears and offer hugs, prayers, support...and whatever else she needed. When I left her apartment that day, there were so many uncertainties and questions about how this journey would end.
And now when I look at her 4 years later...healed...delivered...I admire her even more. When she asked me to photograph her for her 4-year cancer-versary shoot, I was incredibly humbled. Micha is drop-dead gorgeous and such a natural in front of the camera so I knew this was going to be special. And indeed it was! There were so many memorable moments during the session but the most moving one for me was when I got home that night and uploaded the images onto my computer. As I scrolled through the images, tears ran down my face. As I looked at the images of her, standing tall, evoking strength and courage in her silhouette; everything that she had been through came rushing back to my mind...and I marveled at what God has done in her.
I wondered if Micha was truly aware of the strength, dignity, elegance and power that she portrays. I wondered if she knew how many men and women have gathered strength just by witnessing her positivity despite all of the curveballs life has thrown her way. I wondered if she knew how many woman now do their self-breast exams monthly because of her telling them to and how many lives that will potentially save. I wondered if she knew how many little girls she has inspired to love themselves and have healthy self-esteems. I was curious if she was aware that people see God in her because there is no way a woman can endure what she has and still smile, love, support and worship without Him in her life. I wondered if she knew that His strength is being perfected in her weaknesses, in her trials, losses and daily fight to continue to beat cancer.
I saw all of these things wrapped up in a profile of a woman that September Sunday afternoon. A survivor, proudly donning a short blonde wavy haircut with sunbeams reflecting off of her sequined dress, gracefully portraying a strength that she didn't even know radiating from deep down inside, but because of God, she can't help but exude. And I couldn't wait to share what I saw that day with the world because I know that with the thousands she's inspired up until now, that was only the tip of the iceberg. Here's her story:
On a sunny fall afternoon exactly 4 years ago, Micha Logan got the call that she had been waiting for, crying to God for, praying for. It was the news that she pushed through six rounds of chemotherapy and 37 radiation treatments to hear. And when she heard her doctor's voice on the phone saying, "Micha, we got everything. You are now cancer-free!" a huge weight was lifted from her spirit. It didn't matter that she was in the middle of hosting an pep rally at Lee High School in Huntsville, Ala., the battle was over and she wanted everyone to know! Through happy tears, she shared the news with an auditorium full of high-schoolers, who cheered for her as if it was their own victory.
But four years of remission has not totally removed the sting of cancer from her life. The Huntsville-based radio DJ at WEUP-FM, whose on-air name is "ML6," admits that her mind is constantly jolted back to May 2013 when she received the shocking diagnosis at the age of 31. Every time she gets sick, experiences pain, or goes in for her 6-month-checkups with her oncologist and team of doctors, fear creeps in that the cancer may be back. The lingering acute pain from the radiation and the absence of her eyebrows from the chemotherapy are just a few reminders of the one of the toughest times of her life. She takes a daily medication called Tamoxifen to keep the cancer cells from coming back. The side effects include hot flashes, blurred vision, loss of appetite and skin blotches. Although cancer is no longer in her body, the effects are still very much apart of her daily life.
But Micha is not only recovering from her own battle with breast cancer. Just over a year after she found out she was free from cancer, her grandmother's long-time battle with uterine cancer took a turn for the worse. Despite efforts to treat it with chemotherapy, she passed away December 2014. Not even two years after that, her father, Arthur Nowlin, became ill.
"I just felt like we couldn't catch a break! When we found out about dad's cancer, I was like, "Grandma had cancer, then me, then grandma's came back and we lost her, now he has it?" Micha recalled. "As if my heart wasn't broken enough..."
It took months for doctors to find the rare and untreatable form of cancer that originated in his bowel duct and just months after his diagnosis in August, he passed away in October 2016. Two of the very people who were her rocks during her journey to healing, died of cancer within a two year span. "After daddy died I told God, "Ok, You are really trying me!" said Micha. "To be honest, I've been mad at God up until about two months ago. And I still don't understand it...like what is the lesson in "daddy" being gone? Why him? He was supposed to live until he was 80-90 years old and I'm still figuring it out."
"That's why this year's word for me is "recovery," Micha explained. "Losing daddy at the end of last year and dealing with the anger and frustration of that and then at the beginning of this year, having another scare with my left breast. I just wasn't sure how I would get through each day. Even though life is still dark for me, I still see a little light pushing me forward. I know that this is happening for me to help someone else, this is bigger than me."
In the weeks leading up to the diagnosis, Micha had been in and out of her GYN"s office to find out why her monthly cycles were abnormally long. (Looking back she has no explanation for why this was happening, except that God used that issue to get her in to see the doctor) During her annual checkup, the nurse practitioner examined her breasts and told her that she felt something...a lump. They told her she needed to go get a mammogram the following day.
"I was like, a what?" recalled Micha. "I didn't even know what a mammogram was. I remember I left the paper that had the address to the place where I was supposed to go get the mammogram, at the doctors office. I had to call them back the next day to ask them where to go. The seriousness of it just wasn't registering in my mind."
After the mammogram, Micha was told to go wait in the lobby. Minutes later she was called back to be scanned again.
"I was thinking, my boobs aren't that big, I mean they're decent but y'all can't see what yall need to see on the first go round?" A few days later her doctor called with the results and told her that they found two spots and she would need a biopsy.
"I had never had a biopsy before...that's when I started to wonder what was happening," said Micha. "I called a friend and asked had she or any friends had this type of procedure in their breasts and she reassured me that it was no big deal so I didn't think too much of it."
Three days later, Micha was at work when she received the call from her doctor. It's the life-changing call nobody wants to get and one she'll never forget.
"She told me that they found two tumors in my right breast. One was benign, but the other was malignant; at stage 2," And I really didn't hear too much after that to be honest. I was kind of in a state of shock. The only thing I heard her say was, Can you come to the doctor's office at 3:00? I told her, "ok."
"The very first person I called was my Pastor, A.D.; I was in tears and hysterical," said Micha. "He told me that I needed to call my family, but I didn't want to. We had just finished getting my grandma through another grueling bout with uterine cancer, she completed her radiation in March and was finally in good place. My parent's business had just burned down a few months before; and here I come in May with this news. I just didn't want to be another burden, but he insisted that I call my family."
When I told my father, he just screamed..."Nooooooooo!!!!" and then he said, "I'm on my way!" recalled Micha. "My mom overheard him and asked where he was going and when I told her what was going on, she was hysterical."
"I didn't want to tell my grandma, I felt it would break her...but I had to. And when I told her, she just cried...grandma just cried, but she took it like a champ," Micha said. "We all went down to The Breast Center and my doctor started crying as she was talking to me. She just kept saying, "you're so young, you're healthy, this doesn't run in your family...I've never seen this before, I just don't understand this."
Micha knew very little about breast cancer. "All I knew about breast cancer was that in October people wear pink...and I HATED pink!" Micha said. "I didn't know anything."
"After the doctor prayed with us, I went home and I just sat there...like woah...this sucks!" Micha remembers being angry, frustrated and disappointed in the weeks that followed.
I had all of these doctors appointments and I'd never been to the doctor so much in my life. People were sending me reading material written by older women who had dealt with cancer, but I felt I couldn't relate to it...I was only 31 years old. I remember a well-meaning older lady called me and said, "Just cut them (breasts) off...you'll find a man to love you!" I knew she was trying to be helpful but it just made me mad.
It wasn't until Micha had a phone conversation with her Aunt Janice, a 20-year breast cancer survivor, that she was able to break free from all of the anger.
"She got me together so quick!" Micha said. "She was like, "Ok are you done sulking?" I said, "huh?!" She said it again, "Are you done?!" Then she basically told me I needed to get it together and get over myself. She told me that I HAD to fight this! She shared some scriptures, prayed with me and when we got off the phone, I looked myself in the mirror and I said, "Let's do this!"
Dealing with Chemo
Micha was scheduled to start chemotherapy on June 6. Her best friends came down the weekend before to get her ready mentally, emotionally and physically for what was ahead. With her strong community of support, she felt ready to conquer chemotherapy. "On Day 1, I was like ok chemo, let's do this!" said Micha.
But a few days before her second chemo treatment, she was at work and ran her fingers through her hair. She looked down to see a huge clump of hair in her hands. "I was like, "Are you serious?!" And I just broke down crying."
She needed to talk to someone. So she called her dad because he always knew what to say.
"Why don't you just go to the barbershop on Friday and cut it all off instead of watching it fall out?" he asked. "Why don't you take control of the situation and you cut it off?"
Micha was stunned. "GO BALD?!?!, I can't do that!" she said.
He was like, "Yeah! You could rock it! You're beautiful!!! Just do it! I bet you're gonna have the most beautiful bald head in the world!"
So that Friday, with a friend's support, Micha went to the barber shop to get her hair cut. Thankfully the barber's wife had gone through chemotherapy and he knew how to handle it with care, gently talking her through it. And immediately, her secret, the thing she was still wrapping her mind around...the thing she didn't want to talk about with anybody, cancer...was now obvious to everyone. Before she could leave the barber shop, a man that she barely knew asked her why she was going bald.
"Because I'm going through chemotherapy..." she muttered. And his response was "Yooooo, aren't you on the radio?! You need to be talking about this and sharing your story!"
"I was like Sir! I'm just trying to deal with this myself AND I don't even know you," Micha replied. "But he kept going in about how I needed to share. And honestly, what he was saying was making sense, I just wasn't in the headspace to think about it yet. Later that day I got a call to go talk to some girls in a mentoring camp about self-esteem, and I was like ok God, really?! You're going to MAKE me talk about this out loud!"
That night she had to host and event and although initially she showed up in a hat and sunglasses, she eventually removed them and revealed her bald head. She posted pictures of her "new look" on social media that night.
"The comments were crazy. People were saying I had gone too far with my hair. I was always doing something different with my hair so people just assumed it was just another one of my crazy styles. I had friends who had to come and apologize for their initial reactions. But I think it was a lesson for people that you can't judge based on appearances because you have no idea what people are going through."
In a matter of weeks, all of Micha's body hair was gone, even her eyelashes. "It made my life easy in some ways. I didn't have to worry about styling or washing my hair or shaving anymore. I just got up and showered and left," Micha said, with a laugh. "I had to make the best of it and not let it get me down."
"I Had Cancer, but cancer didn't have me"
In between her rounds of chemo, Micha was still working, making appearances, and traveling. She was determined to press through.
"I knew I had this situation going on but I wanted to live," Micha said, recalling how she doubled up on treatments so she could travel to Hawaii with her family. "I know it was a lot, but cancer wasn't a death sentence. I wanted to enjoy life!"
Everything that I could do, I did it," said Micha. "I wasn't sure what cancer would do to me so I told myself, "While I'm here, I'm just gonna live!" I remember going to a friends bridal shower and the fatigue had me knocked out in the corner. But I was there though! After that nap, I jumped right back into the festivities. I didn't want to miss anything."
Three months into chemo, Micha decided to tell her listening audience about what was going on. The immediate outpouring of support and gratitude was overwhelming. People called in thanking her for sharing and began to encourage her on her journey.
"I would be in the grocery store and people would say, "Whats in your cart ML6? You better not have any junk food! And why are you even in the grocery store?" Micha remembered with a laugh. "And ALL the cashiers in Wal-Mart knew me so when I'd go to check out, they'd tell everyone else in line to let me come to the front so I could go home and get in the bed to rest. I wanted to say, you're making too big a deal out of this, please stop it, but it was super sweet of them to look out for me!"
"Once I went public with it, it just took things to another level. The love shown to me was just unbelievable and that pushed me to fight harder," Micha said. "It's funny because at the beginning of 2013, I had prayed to God and asked for three things...1) That He would help me to be more active in the community, 2) that He would help me appreciate my job more and 3) and to increase my faith. I had NO idea that getting breast cancer was going to answer all those requests."
"Be careful when you ask God for something because He will do it, but it will be His own way," she added.
Once Micha began to realize that her diagnosis was connected with that prayer and God's purpose for her, a peace began to cover her. "At that point, I knew I was going to be good," she said. "I didn't have the fear that the cancer would get into my lymph nodes. I don't know, I just had this peace that I was going to be ok."
Although chemotheraphy was Micha's primary treatment, every good grandma has a concoction that will heal everything from colds to cancer and Vinmore Logan, Micha's grandmother, was no exception. "Grandma had me on this stuff called "Greens and More" that we got from the health food store," Micha said. "I remember the lady in Foods For Life saying, "If you take this every single day, I promise you your tumor will shrink in half. We got so many containers! I'm going to be honest, it tasted like pure dirt, but I drank it everyday along with apple cider vinegar and something else my she had me on! But don't you know when I went in for my halfway checkup they told me my tumor shrunk in half! I was like, let me keep on drinking this Greens and More!"
Micha's last chemo treatment was in September and then she had her surgery, a lumpectomy. After her recovery, she got the call on Oct. 25 that she was cancer-free, but the doctors still wanted her to do radiation to be sure that everything was gone.
"Radiation was the hardest part," said Micha. "It was 37 treatments every day. I thought I could do it on my own but it took a toll on me physically. That's also when my eyebrows left and I was like, "Ok, now I really look like a cancer patient." I started having self-esteem issues and it was really hard."
Looking back Micha remembered how her father was pivotal in helping her to love herself during this difficult time. "I'm so thankful for daddy because I remember I called him and I was straight up with him, and told him that I was bald and had no eyebrows!" said Micha. "And he was like, AND? You're beautiful! You are MY baby!"
"By the time I hung up from our conversation, I was super confident about it because he had me feeling like I was Beyonce or Halle Berry, like I had it all together! I knew I could call him morning, noon or night and he was there to listen and get me together."
Her strength was was contagious even from her radiation chair. The patients and doctors fell in love with her and admired how well she handled things and the positivity that she brought to the environment. One patient told her that he didn't have any family or anyone to be at the treatments with him, but just watching her gave him the strength to get through.
The Journey Continues
Micha was diagnosed with cancer in May 2013 and finished her last radiation in January 2014.
"That's fairly quick!" Micha said. "After my last radiation treatment, I got into my car and I just cried and cried...because I was done with everything! My process was short." Even the doctors were baffled at how quickly the tumor shrunk and how well her body responded to the treatments. Micha was quick to inform them that God was her healer and that she would be their miracle patient, and she was! After it was all over, her doctor came back to her, speechless, acknowledging that there was something remarkable at work. He was so impressed with her results that he put them on his refrigerator at home.
But in 2014 at her 6 month checkup, she heard "Uh-oh, we see something, we are going to have to go back in," Micha recalled. "I didn't tell anybody. People had been so excited, so happy for my healing. I had friends who hadn't prayed in years, whose faith was renewed by seeing what I went through and I didn't want them to be disappointed."
But thankfully it was just scar tissue and they removed it.
"I've never wanted sympathy, that's not how I live," said Micha. "I wanted to prove to myself that I could be a survivor. I had cancer, but cancer didn't have me. I had to live and start sharing what I had been through. Younger women are getting this and they're not talking about it. I've met 18-year -olds, 30-year-olds, a 23-year-old about to have a double mastectomy because it just came back. Breast cancer is taking black women out left and right and we've got to start talking about this and fight it!"
Micha says that sharing has given her so much strength. She has helped women gain the confidence to embrace their baldness and has seen the look on women's faces when they have a new resolve to make it through whatever they are facing in life. "That's what keeps me going."
The past 4 years have been tough for Micha. But her doctors told her that making it to year 5 of remission, greatly decreases the chances of the cancer recurring. "It's not over, I've made it to year 4, I've got one more to go!"
Even though her hair has grown back, Micha still rocks her a very low cut by choice. The medicine thins her hair out, so the short-do is perfect and it allows her to continue to have creative expression. She dyes it almost monthly to coordinate with the colors of each cancer's awareness month.
Thankfully now, when she looks in the mirror, she doesn't see thinning hair, blotchy skin or the areas above her eyes where her eyebrows used to be...she sees a survivor, a fighter, someone who is comfortable with who she is. "I walk around here "eyebrowless" and I'm ok with it!" she laughed.
Micha sees a woman who has been knocked down, but keeps getting back up. She sees a woman in recovery, still struggling and trying to figure things out but holding her head up high because she knows where her help comes from.
"I'm not all the way there, this is a daily battle. There have been many days when I couldn’t see the light in the midst of the darkness but I’m so glad it shined brighter than my pain and frustration," she said. "I know God has used everything I've been through in my life to prepare me for this and push me to see what I'm capable of. I look back on all that I've been through...almost being given away as a child because of the shame my mother felt from having a child out of wedlock, then seeing her fight for me in an attempted kidnapping that I miraculously survived because my mom attacked the man with her 4-inch heels and he let me go, seeing my uncle laying in a pool of blood after being murdered, escaping an attempted rape, watching my mom fight and struggle to be the best so that she could go from nothing to something...All of it prepared me for this."
"In many ways my battle with cancer was the best time of my life because I was stress-free. I couldn't stress, it wasn't good for me!" said Micha. "I focused on the people who loved me, and I lived every moment to the fullest because I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out," she said. "But this year...year 4 has been a trying year physically and emotionally. But I'm here and I gotta keep going because I have Erin, my little sister, looking up to me and I need her to grow up and be able to say, "I know what survival looks like!"
If nobody else can say it, I can. I KNOW what survival looks like. Having a front-row seat to Micha's fight has inspired me in more ways than I can count and I pray that millions more will hear her story and know that they too, can survive whatever they are facing with God as their help.