Eloisa Clark has always been a praying person and lives her life very close to God. The relationship grew even stronger and deeper after a terrifying diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer at the age of 50.
“I pray all the time but I started to pray more,” she said. “I read the Bible more. I just put it in His hands.”
It was in February when the mother of eight felt something in her left breast. Her doctor confirmed that the ‘something’ was big and sent her for an ultrasound. It turned out to be the dreaded answer that no one wants to hear – triple negative breast cancer at stage 2.
“I was in shock,” she recalled. “When you hear the word cancer…all I remember is crying and crying.”
Fortunately, Eloisa’s mother-in-law was by her side and assured her she would be fine.
“She said, ‘You’re a very strong woman.’”
Indeed, this hardship was just one of many in the life of the Mexican-born American. After her family moved to California, she longed to go back home. Once her children started to come along, she planned to return to Mexico once they were grown. Her second husband, Joseph Clark, who owns a metal fabrication business with his brother in Boaz, didn’t want to live in California. He longed to return to his home in Alabama, so Eloisa followed him to the Deep South. She accepted that she isn’t going anywhere and has learned to like the slower life.
“God told me, I’m not finished with you. Stay here.”
The couple has two daughters still living at home: Mariah, who is a senior at Boaz High School planning to be a police officer after earning a criminal justice degree, and the youngest of the brood, 6-year-old Maci. Two of her other children live nearby, three live in California and have their own families, and one is in Mexico.
It turned out Eloisa was glad she stayed in Alabama when she faced cancer treatment. The Marshall Cancer Care Center is convenient to her and everyone there was comforting and friendly, she said.
“The doctor is so nice,” she said. “He promised he would fight for me and said I should fight. He said you, me and God will work together. I’m in very good hands.”
Chemotherapy turned out to be a battle of its own. The first couple of treatments made Eloisa so sick she felt like her body was being destroyed from the inside. Then her long, thick hair fell out by the clumps.
“That is what broke my heart,” she remembered.
Mariah recalled her mother asking for her help to get a knot out of her hair. When she tried, it all came out in her hand.
“I’ll never forget that day,” Mariah said.
Eloisa went to Wal-Mart to get her hair buzzed and cried all the way through it. When a stranger offered to pay for her haircut, she encouraged a donation be made instead to the Cancer Care Center.
She was determined not to focus on how bad she felt. Instead, she kept assuring everyone around her she would be okay. Eloisa tried to resume her job of cleaning houses with two other women, and worked as best she could with the exhaustion that plagued her.
On July 27, Eloisa finished five months of chemo. Her hair has come back in a cute, boyish style that shows off her beautiful smile and big eyes. Her kids bought her many wigs. She wears them occasionally but they were often too hot in the heat of an Alabama summer. She psyched herself up for the next step in her battle and was ready to start radiation treatments in October. After that, she’ll be tested to see if any cancer remains.
“I can do it,” she said. “I’m confident the cancer will be gone. My doctor told me it will be gone but it will take a year before I’m back 100 percent. Now I just do the best I can.”
Eloisa plans to graduate in November from an online Bible college, which is very important to her.
Mariah will graduate from high school next May. They both laugh when Eloisa says she hopes her hair has grown out by then.
“I really hope she feels good and is back 100 percent,” Mariah said.
Eloisa’s faith is her rock and has been strong all her life. The family attends Second Baptist Church in Boaz. She believes cancer may be God’s way of using her to help others. That’s why she wanted to share her story.
“I’ve asked Him to show me the way,” she said. “I told God, ‘It’s your life not mine. I will serve wherever you put me.’”