Venecia Benefield Butler is a four-time
survivor of breast cancer and has lived her whole life in the small town of Piedmont,
First diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, Venecia fought the battle and beat the disease only for it to return for a second time, 5 years later. Better prepared, more knowledgeable, and naming the disease CRAP (thanks to a childhood friend’s student) this time around, she fought an even tougher fight for her second victory.
Mrs. Butler came out on top with a story to tell of her struggles throughout the diagnoses. She credits her success to her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and to her sense of humor, family, friends, and special support from her reunion with childhood friends, the YaYas. Her first book, "I Have to Get Some Things Off My Chest" has just been published by Crossbooks.
Mrs. Butler speaks to church groups of her battle and through these talks, is able to give hope and inspiration to many.
Mrs. Butler still resides in Piedmont, AL with her husband of 23 years, Curtis, and their two teenage children, Nathan and Chelsea.
There are three things Venecia Butler is doing for herself and for others. She’s encouraging everyone to find laughter in every situation, she has written a book and she has formed a foundation to help cancer victims.
Venecia had a hysterectomy in 2005 and was put on hormone therapy. In February 2006 she noticed a knot in her left breast. It hurt. She’d always heard that if something like that hurt, it would probably be a cyst. “That’s why I wasn’t that concerned about it,” she said. “I thought it was a cyst. I went to see my doctor in April and had a mammogram. It was a tumor.” By the time she had a biopsy, which was the day before her 42nd birthday, the cancer, infiltrating ductular carcinoma, which she was told was aggressive, had already spread to her lymph nodes. She had a mastectomy on that one breast. She wanted one on her right breast but her surgeon didn’t think she needed it and told her that it would be “an overkill.”
She spent most of 2006 taking chemotherapy and radiation. Then she took medication for the next five years to help prevent a recurrence, all the while following up with visits to the doctor every three months. “I had all my scans done once a year, then almost exactly five years later, I felt a knot in my right breast,” said Venecia. “I went immediately and had it checked. It was cancer, so I had to have another mastectomy. Because I had waited the first time, it had gotten in my lymph glands. Had I gone earlier, it probably would not have, so I had this mastectomy right away.”
Venecia only had chemotherapy this time. She took one treatment a month for six months and was declared cancer free. “I had prayed and asked God what I was supposed to be doing,” said Venecia. “I knew you don’t just go through cancer twice like I did and still be here. I knew I was supposed to write a book and go around and speak about my experience.”
So, she began writing her book. The name of it came easily – “I Have to Get Some Things Off My Chest.”
In September she felt something in her chest wall. It was another tumor. Doctors took it out, and she spent the fall taking 40 radiation treatments.
In January two small spots were found on her lower right lung. “They were very small and scans had to be run back to back every three months,” said Venecia. “They told me it was more dangerous to go in and take them out than to start chemo, so I started chemo this past February 1. Then the middle lobe of my right lung collapsed, so I had to stop chemo for a month to let my lung heal.”
When she went back to her oncologist in April, it was time for more chest scans. The chemotherapy was taking such a toll on her this time, she told her she wanted to have her chest scanned before she had any more treatments. The spots on her lung were gone, so she told the oncologist she wasn’t doing any more chemotherapy.
For the fourth time, Venecia is cancer free.
“Cancer isn’t funny, but when you can laugh when you have it, it helps you and your family get through it,” said Venecia. “Laughter changes your whole attitude. In 2006 when I was first diagnosed, my children were 10 and 11. They saw me laughing a lot and not getting depressed and upset. Basically, all their teenage life, I’ve been dealing with cancer.”
Venecia said in the seven years she’s been going through cancer, she has learned that many corporations make money off cancer victims.
“I hope they’re going to fine a cure, but personally, I don’t feel like they do enough for the patients and their families,” she said.
That’s why she formed Venecia’s Foundation, an incorporated, non-profit organization. Its purpose is to provide aid, support and comfort to cancer patients and their families.
“I want to go in and make sure all chemo rooms have portable DVD players,” said Venecia. “Sometimes people are there from four to six hours, and I want them to be able to watch funny movies if they want to. I want to give care packages to the patients and gas cards to help them out financially. I want to brighten their day a little bit and I can do this by sharing my faith and love with them.”
Venecia’s Foundation is a non-profit that means that it’s tax deductible. Checks can be made to Venecia’s Foundation and mailed to P. O. Box 572, Piedmont AL, 36272.
The book has a lot of humor in it, said Venecia. “It’s all about my journey and how God uses foolish things to confound the wise. If you think about it, God used a little boy to kill a giant.”
“When God says it’s time for me to go to heaven, I don’t want anyone saying cancer took my life,” she said. “I don’t want cancer to get credited for my death. I want to get finished with what I was meant to do.”