Being an Advocate for a Loved One with Earlina Green

About Earlina

Earlina Green Hamilton is a speaker, consultant, and author of The Beginner’s Guide to Finding Your Brave and 7 Tips for Breaking Into The World of Sports. Before beginning her writing and speaking career, Green was a leading sports executive for professional NBA teams Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks. She has given speeches across the nation, including West Point United States Military Academy, Ignite DFW, and Manhattanville College. Green is the founder of Love Over Pride and Project Hug, social-good projects geared toward serving the community. Earlina received the Sports Launch 30 under 30 award and was honored as Dallas’ Emerging Leader by the eWomen Network. Currently an educator at Brookhaven College, she teaches classes on marketing and brand development. In 2018, Earlina received the University of North Texas Communication Studies Horizon Alumni Award.

Earlina lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband.

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Adam: (00:06)
cases. They may even struggle to grasp except or acknowledge what is happening for a variety of reasons. When that person is someone that you care deeply about, it might be necessary to intervene to make sure your loved one gets the best possible care here today to tell us about her family’s story is Earlina Green. Earlina, welcome to the show.

Earlina: (00:24)
Hi. Thank you for having me Adam.

Adam: (00:26)
Well thank you for being on the show and just sharing your family’s story. So just let’s start there. Tell us about your story.

Earlina: (00:36)
Well, you know, our story started last March, so back in 2019 and it really from my mother started much further back than that about three years ago. She found a small, I want to say popcorn kernel size kind of mass in her breasts. And you know, my mother, I’ll give you a little bit of her background. She’s a retired police detective, very strong woman. And so when she found this lump in her breast, three years now, four years ago, she told, of course her children. I am one of three, so I’m a triplet. And then I have an older brother and an older sister, so there’s five of us total. And so she told all of her kids what was going on and we kind of urged her, we said, mom, you know, you got to go get this checked out. To her credit, you know, our family, my sisters and I, we have had kind of fatty masses in our breasts and we’ve had different things go on.

Earlina: (01:35)
So, I could see maybe her putting it off maybe a week, maybe a month. But really what happened over the next three years accumulated, um, last March, whenever that breast, not only had the mass, but the, the mass had grown probably to about the size of a golf ball. And her breasts was now showing signs of oozing and stuff of that nature. And so at that point we all had a choice to make it and I figured it was going to be up to me to say, Hey guys, let’s get together and let’s try to get over to mom’s house because she’s got this stuff going on with her breasts. And I don’t think she’s gonna, she’s gonna wait, she’s going to put it off some more if we don’t all come together. And so we kind of staged an intervention last March and unfortunately that intervention ran four hours with just a lot of hard conversations between my mother and our family and belief systems and you know, where she was going and why she had waited so late, especially since she knew something was there. But four hours later we got her to an emergency kind of care place and that doctor looked at her and said, you’ve got to get to a hospital. We just don’t have the equipment necessary to actually diagnose or anything like that. And so our journey started then she would go on to start treatment that following month.

Adam: (03:05)
Wow. That is just so significant in so many ways. But I want to start by talking about the, the conversation that you had. So I know there’s a delicate balance that needs to be held when you’re having those difficult conversations. Can you talk about how you approach that with your family?

Earlina: (03:23)
It wasn’t easy. And I would like to say that all of us coming together was the tipping point for her. But really in that fourth hour, my older sister had brought in my niece and my niece came in tears in her eyes and she said, I don’t want to lose my grandmother. And so that phrase kind of, I don’t know if it like jolted my mother and she said, okay, let’s go, let’s go, let’s, let’s go. Let’s just go. I guess she wanted no more of that. But what I found in that conversation or in that intervention is what her medical intervention is what we call it now is that there was nothing left. But to tell her the truth, how do you have those types of conversations? Just be honest. And really whenever you’re looking at us, you know, a Southern Baptist woman who has strong beliefs.

Earlina: (04:17)
And I think I had, you know, myself at least I had to push a little bit on those notions to be, have so much faith and be a woman of faith, but then to be so afraid to go look after yourself and get something checked out. I couldn’t reconcile that thought. And so we talked about everything. And to this day, I’m sure some of that conversation, um, she didn’t appreciate, but I look back now and it was the best thing that we could do for her in love and honesty. Get her to where she needed to go.

Adam: (04:49)
Wow. Well that’s, that’s amazing. It’s amazing that you loved your mother enough to have that difficult conversation with our end to really to bring everybody together to do it together. That’s really, really fantastic. So, you know, speaking of getting everyone together, I know that was difficult. You and your siblings are busy and successful people. You’re about to welcome a new baby into the world. Do you have any tips for maintaining your own emotional health and ensuring that you’re taking care of yourself while you’re also giving so much care to your mom?

Earlina: (05:21)
What I tried to remind myself is, look, my mom has lived, my mom is how I don’t want to get this. I want to get through. She’s, 77 years old. When we look at her age, she has lived a whole life before, you know, before she had kids. She doesn’t need the kind of hand-holding, but what she needs is a companion. What I felt was an advocate and a lot of the processing from start to finish up the diagnosis. And I believe whenever you’re, you’re finding something out like loved one has breast cancer or you’re sick or whatever, that is chaos. That is the unknown. So there was, we were in a chaotic situation and so the only next logical step is asking ourselves, well then how do we bring that chaos into order? And so I know all the moving pieces.

Earlina: (06:16)
My sisters are there, my older sister’s there, my brother can do this. They’re all going to be able to do what they can do. I’m here, I’m lucky enough to be self-employed. And so how can I now come alongside my mother and say, we’re going to this appointment. That’s right. We’re going to get this treatment done today. We are going to get done what we need to get done. And that’s the best way. The best advice I can tell anyone is that, how do you move from this place of like chaos and bring that kind of chaos into order? And it’s literally, it’s such a cliche statement to say this, but it’s literally taking one day at a time and it’s trying not to be, you know, superwoman on any given day, but just realizing, okay, what can I take care of today? Um, and then tomorrow’s got enough trouble of its own, so we’ll wait until tomorrow to figure out what happens next. So we get a test back that we was unexpected. We got one of those this week. It’s crazy given what she’s been through with that, a radical mastectomy she had early in January and so then we got back earlier this week that there could be new masses in her other breast. And so, here we go again.

Earlina: (07:34)
It’s again ordering some of that chaos, one day at a time.

Adam: (07:39)
Wow. So you may have just answered this, but I want to ask you this question anyway just to see if you have anything, anything to add to it or any nuances that you want to bring out. So how can friends and family best help a loved one as they face a diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer?

Earlina: (07:55)
I think my, just being honest there is, there’s so many, there’s so much nuance, there are so many things that need to be discussed. There are so many emotions that are running high. And if you’ve got a big family like ours, goodness gracious, how do you keep everyone in the loop? I knew early on to start a group text with my sisters and brothers to let them know my mom’s got that appointment Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It said 9, 11, and 1 – here’s who can show up, who can not show up. And I knew to keep the communication line open so that no one was reaching out to mom saying what’s going on? When’s your next appointment? And so the best thing that I think you could do is keep the communication line open. Assume nothing, and let everyone have their emotions.

Earlina: (08:44)
But really starting from a place of truth. You know, my mom before her cancer diagnosis, she lived with diabetes. And the challenge I presented to her and to my sisters and brothers was, look, we love our mom. She had diabetes for 15 years, and we didn’t challenge her on changing her lifestyle. We can’t afford to tiptoe around this cancer. And so what we have to do is, mom, what are you eating? It goes back to just again, very truthful conversations about this is what you say you want out of the next God willing, 10, 5, 10, 20 years. Well, how can we get there? And how are you helping in that process? Just giving them their agency back. I mean she, she has cancer and yes, it’s, it’s unfortunate, but she’s still a person and she still makes choices and she still has all of her agency and it’s making sure that she continues to have that and keep that and moves through the process totally towards a better direction.

Adam: (09:50)
That’s great. It sounds like, if I could summarize some of the things you’re saying, it sounds like there is a loving boldness that you have with your mother, that is helping you to help her move towards her own health. So what, what’s your biggest takeaway that you’d like to share with our audience that you’ve learned throughout your journey as your mom’s patient advocate?

Earlina: (10:11)
I’m going to talk to my ladies here only because, you know, watching this journey has been so I tell my sisters and my brother that we are witnesses. It’s been so informative. There’s a story being told and we have, we’re part of it. We’re witnessing. When I look at my sisters, especially all of us girls and our health and taking care of ourselves, you know, I women, we have this notion of what does it mean to be like self-possessed? What does it mean to own oneself? Own the choices, own the decisions, own the outcome. It’s no longer up to the physician who you hope calls you back and gives you an answer. Sometimes you got to call them. Sometimes you’ve got to reach out to the who hasn’t returned your call. It’s not about sitting back and being passive, but it’s about being active in the, in the story that your life is telling. Because sometimes if we can’t find the bridge there, it could mean life or death.

Adam: (11:16)
You know? I love what you said. I take full responsibility for your health and owning that and being okay with all of the things that means and not hiding from it. All right, so last question. Can you tell us how Susan G Komen has played a role in your family’s breast cancer journey?

Earlina: (11:31)
Yeah. Well, what I love about Susan G Komen…. I had the great privilege to meet with so many people because they’re, you know, they’re right down the street from me here in Dallas, Texas. I believe their headquarters are here. I met with Paula Snyder, Susan G. Komen’s CEO, and had great conversation. What I love about Susan G Komen is one of their initiatives called Know Your Girls. So, minority women have high rates of breast cancer and then even higher rates of dying from breast cancer either due to late diagnosis, you know, whatever it may be. And so I love that. I love that initiative and what I took from, again, having that great honor to meet with Paula is that she has a personal story with breast cancer. And I didn’t know that before and I didn’t know, I didn’t know her story was so what it was, I mean, reactions to chemo and changing complete lifestyle, changing to be where she is today to be cancer-free.

Earlina: (12:32)
Absolutely amazing. But she was one of the people I’d met with kinda in those early stages of like, goodness gracious, what needs to happen here now? And it was listening to her story and hearing, she changed her diet, she changed her last, she changed kind of her daily mind frame of thinking about her cancer. And now she’s been cancer-free for, for a great deal of time now. And so Susan G Komen, again, I have a very deep personal connection because of all the women that I’ve been able to meet within the organization. But I think the know your girls initiative is an important initiative. Especially when we look at communities that are underserved or are not getting the eyeballs that they need to maybe bring some of this to attention. Um, and the biggest and the biggest questions that we always have to ask is whenever you, whenever your life is consumed with food on the table, a roof over your head, clothing on your backs, how much can you give to things like this, give to preventative treatment, give to checking out a small luck.

Earlina: (13:35)
And what I’d say by observing my mother’s story is what we’re talking about your very life here. And so maybe we have to give it all with God. Maybe we have to give it all it, all the attention that we have in order to kind of make new decisions. And so I think there’s, there’s so much work that can be done. I’m in these different communities where the levels of, you know, I’m not being diagnosed early or on time or high. I think there’s so much great work that can be done and just living people back, their agency, giving people back to agency is just a big, big, big thing that I want hopefully our listeners to leave with today is that you’ve got it. You have got that agency now. What are you going to do with it?

Adam: (14:19)
That’s right. Well Earlina this has been fantastic. Really admire the work that you’re putting in to support your mother and that your siblings are doing to support her as well. And I just can’t thank you enough for being on the show and uh, good luck with you with your next steps and, and continuing that support.

Earlina: (14:34)
Yeah. Thank you so much, Adam and I have to give all of my brothers and sisters the credit that is due to them. They have been phenomenal. Our family has come together and I think we’re all lucky. My mom was lucky and we’re hanging in there. We’re hanging in there, so thank you so much again, Adam.


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