Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 31

FRIENDSHIP
their freshman year living in the honors dorm.
They shared a love for Jean-Michel Basquiat,
the highs and lows of early career changes, and
the joy of welcoming Chellese's baby girl into
the world... all before both being diagnosed
with cancer as young adults.
In the fall of 2010, Chellese was diagnosed
with cervical cancer at the age of 29, and in
the summer of 2014, Iman was diagnosed with
colorectal cancer at the age of 33. As much as
they had in common, the two young women
had very different cancers and were very different patients. Chellese's cervical cancer was
diagnosed at Stage 1, but Iman's colorectal
cancer was found much later.
Iman wasn't diagnosed until July 2014, but
Chellese believes her friend may have been
presenting symptoms as early as 2007. Because
of her age, Iman wasn't promptly screened for
colorectal cancer. Her doctors checked her for
everything but that. Iman's digestive issues
persisted for many years before a colonoscopy
was finally performed to rule out cancer, and
resulted in a diagnosis of colorectal cancer.
" We didn't think she had [colorectal] cancer
either, " Chellese said. " Her being so young and
presenting with those symptoms ... I just think
her age really worked against her. "
As for their contrasting temperaments as
patients, Iman was all about planning ahead
and researching everything she could about
her cancer and its treatments, but Chellese
preferred dealing with things as they came
up. " I didn't realize what a difficult patient I
was until I saw what a good patient she was, "
laughed Chellese. " I wanted people at the
hospital to get out of my room and leave me
alone, but she was the opposite. Everything
they would ask Iman to do, she tried. "
When Chellese was diagnosed with cervical
cancer, Iman stepped up to take care of her
friend. Through the thick of surgery and recovery, she stayed with Chellese at her house
and in the hospital, taking charge to anticipate
Chellese's needs and remind her of what makes
her happy. She also told their friends how to
be supportive of Chellese.
" Telling people you have cancer is really
hard, " Chellese said. " She was always there

to talk to people for me, in a way that I didn't
know I needed. "
According to Chellese, the most important
difference between their cancers is that she
never felt her life was threatened, whereas
Iman's mortality was constantly looming.
" Thinking about cancer from the perspective
of 'I need to get past it. I'm a single mom. Let's
not be sick anymore.' is very different from
being fearful that you're not going to make
it, " Chellese explained. " For Iman, as she was
learning everything that was going on with her,
everyone kept saying that she might not make
it. So, Iman processing her cancer was vastly
different from how I processed my cancer. "
This humble respect for the major difference
between their cancer diagnoses was something Chellese never lost sight of. She tried to
give Iman advice and information about the
experience of cancer when she could, but she
never felt like they had the same experience.
" I never thought that I was going to die,
but it was different for Iman, " Chellese said.
" She kept
saying, 'I just want to live to be 40.' "
The last two weeks of Iman's life were spent
in the hospital at Georgetown. Chellese lives
three hours away, but made that drive several
times because she loved the sh*t out of that
girl, and would follow her to the end of the
world. There was never any question about
it. But as hard as it was to be there and watch
her soul mate suffer, it was harder not to be
there because of the fear of missing something.
" I now realize that when I was sick, Iman
was doing all the things for me that she was
going to need from me later, " Chellese said.
" And so, I found purpose in my own illness
by being there for her. "
Iman's hospital room was full of people who
adored her, including friends from Hampton
University who had flown in to see her. She
was a genuinely caring person, who showed
up for so many of her friends during their
past challenges.
" The night that Iman passed, she still had
her personality, " Chellese said. She didn't want
to be fussed over. " But she was anxious. She
always had a plan and she was afraid. "

Love

Chellese sat there and talked to Iman until
she fell asleep, and then she fell asleep herself.
Chellese awoke to sounds of the nurse saying
that Iman was transitioning. And so Chellese
and Iman's other loved ones just talked to Iman
until she went.
" I was there holding her hand when she took
her last breath, " Chellese said.
Chellese has always felt a bit of survivor's
guilt. " I feel very blessed and guilty at the
same time. Blessed that I still have a chance,
but guilty because I don't get to share that
with Iman. "
She still grieves the loss of her best friend.
" It really hit me on my cancerversary last December, because it was something that Iman
always made a big deal about for me, " Chellese
said. For example, when Chellese hit her fiveyear no evidence of disease (NED) mark, Iman
planned a spa day for her. She didn't want to
piss on Chellese's parade and have her own
illness overshadow this triumph. But Chellese
didn't want to rub her celebration in Iman's
face either.
" F*cking facebook always reminds you of
sh*t! " Chellese said of her most recent cancerversary. " It snuck up on me and kicked me in
the stomach this year. I lost it. "
" She's still with me all the time, and I think
of her a lot. I still text her sometimes, " Chellese
stated matter-of-factly. " But you have to carry
on, and I know Iman would have wanted me to
enjoy my life. She really wanted to enjoy hers. "
Chellese holds the profound notion that
having Iman as her friend makes her a better
friend to other people, and that giving back
that kind of love to other people is the best
way to honor Iman.
It's unfair AF that Iman Perry died from
colorectal cancer. We will not let her life go
uncelebrated, and we will respectfully share
her story and continue her advocacy so that
other young people with symptoms of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed sooner and saved.
Rest in beauty, peace, and power, sweet
friend Iman. l
#BL AC KGI R L M AGIC
JA DE G A NG S T E R PH D

If you appreciated this story, you are invited to join the author in making a donation to a scholarship at Hampton University established by
Iman's friends. To donate, go to https://bit.ly/3ezimDU. Select Designation of My Choice > Other Endowed Scholarships
and specify " Iman E. Perry Endowed Scholarship. " Thank you.

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
DECEMBER 2020

31


https://www.bit.ly/3ezimDU http://www.elephantsandtea.com

Elephants And Tea - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants And Tea - December 2020

Contents
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 1
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Contents
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 3
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 4
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 5
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 6
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 7
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 8
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 9
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 10
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 11
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 12
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 13
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 14
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 15
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 16
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 17
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 18
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 19
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 20
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 21
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 22
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 23
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 24
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 25
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 26
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 27
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 28
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 29
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 30
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 31
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 32
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 33
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 34
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 35
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 36
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 37
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 38
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 39
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 40
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 41
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 42
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 43
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 44
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 45
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 46
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 47
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 48
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 49
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 50
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 51
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 52
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Cover3
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com