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THINK PINK: Survivor says 'cancer changes you'
Local real estate broker shares her life-altering experience with breast cancer
Darlene Smallwood
Darlene Smallwood, owner and broker of Hometown Realty Consultants, Inc. in Covington, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020. (Cynthia Blackshear-Warren | The Covington News)

COVINGTON, Ga. — Darlene Smallwood knew something was wrong — she could sense it.

In February 2020, after visiting her doctors and undergoing several tests and X-rays, the owner and broker of Hometown Realty Consultants, Inc. in Covington was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I don’t know how many years I had been having problems,” Smallwood said. “Well, I went to the doctors … and I did everything they told me to. And they said, ‘You’re going to be OK.’

Doctors’ initial diagnosis was that she simply had a cyst, and that it needed to be drained of fluid. But after further examination, results from a biopsy showed to be cancerous.

“They said, ‘We’ve got good news and we’ve got bad news,’” Smallwood recalled. “I told them, ‘Well, give me the good news first.’ And they said, ‘We can do surgery, but you do have cancer.’

“Cancer was the word that was scary,” she continued. “Cancer is the word you hear and you automatically think of dying.

“It was during the time of the shock of having the cancer — it’s like in [running this] real estate: here’s the problem. What are we going to do to fix it? How am I going to get rid of it? Because I’m not ready to leave this world yet,” Smallwood said.

Smallwood went to Atlanta for her surgery and follow-up treatment. Seeking a second opinion, it was discovered that Smallwood had developed cancer in both breasts.

After a successful surgery, Smallwood returned home to Covington just as COVID-19 began to take its toll on the area. She was forced to stay at home, both due to having cancer and also to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus.

Smallwood returned to work the week of July 4, solely working from her office. Due to the risk of COVID-19, she left the duty of showing homes to her family of real estate agents.

“We just kept going,” she said. “It’s like, where there’s a will, there’s a way … I wasn’t never worried about the business having to close or anything like that, because I could count on them. I knew I had good agents taking care of their stuff, and I knew that if I needed something taken care of, they’d do that as well. That’s the things you never forget.”

Smallwood said cancer has changed her life in an unexplainable way.

“Having cancer, you can go into a depression,” Smallwood said. “Having cancer, it can change you. I can’t explain how, really, but it does change you … It does something mentally and physically.”

That why she said it’s important to talk to people and accept the help of others. She said the support of her family and work family were instrumental in battle with breast cancer.

Smallwood recently went for a check-up in Atlanta, and she said everything looked fine.

For anyone who thinks they might have a health issues, especially with signs or symptoms of breast cancer, Smallwood advised to seek out their doctor and get help.

“It doesn’t matter if you think it’s not cancer,” Smallwood said. “But if there’s something suspicious, go and get it checked. Because what you’re doing is putting off something that could add years to your life. So, whether you want to hear it or not, you need to know. Never put it off, because you’re taking days away from your life, and those days could be memories that you’re making with your loved ones.”