Hope and inspiration can come from the strangest of places. Many times it can come when we’re faced with the impossible. When it feels like we’ve got nothing left to give, we’re able to somehow find the strength to dig deep within ourselves to carry on and even encourage others in the process. Freda Mays is known best for her musical expertise, helping artist reach multi-platinum success as a manager, working with the likes of the 69 Boyz (“Tootsee Roll”) and Quad City DJs (“C’mon ‘N ride it (The train)” and “Space Jam,” the theme song from the 1996 live action animated movie Space Jam). Both these groups have been accredited with bringing Southern Hip-hop to mainstream, Freda stood at the forefront of Southern Hip-Hop during the early 90s paving the way for such acts like Missy Elliott and many other southern rappers to break the mold of Hip-Hop that the East and West coast had previously set.
In 2008, Freda was diagnosed with an advanced form of breast cancer and during the following years she would endure an uphill battle of mental, physical and spiritual battles that would test her limits. She endured a mastectomy and after an entire year of chemotherapy and radiation, Freda went into remission in December of 2009. Three years later, in February 2012, the cancer returned, but this time it spread to her lung, which led her into going onto another phase of chemotherapy. In early 2013, Freda’s Oncologist mentioned to her that her current treatments were working well for her body and that the moment she receives three clear scans in a row, chemotherapy could stop. As fate would have it, when Mays went in for results from her third scan in February 2014, she received the worst news yet. She was told that cancer had spread to six other areas in her body and that she would now have to be on treatments indefinitely.
Despite all this, Freda remains optimistic about her future and has even written a book based on her battle with cancer entitled, My Naked Truth About Breast Cancer And Being Single. The book was released this past March. Parlé Magazine was able to catch up with Freda to chat with her about her career, her book and plans for the future. Read it all here
Parlé Magazine: For those that don’t know, can you tell them a little bit about how you started out in the entertainment business?
Freda L. Mays: For years I was in the music business, I managed a lot of groups 69 Boyz, Quad City DJs, 95 South, RAab, Dis-n-Dat and II D Extreme. I stepped away from the music business briefly to work in the social work field. I was helping people who were out of work and overseeing seventeen job centers with 50 plus staff members which is what I did until last year when I had to give up my job but during all this I was still active in the entertainment business.
Parlé: You found a lot of success in and out of entertainment, but what was it like for you when you were diagnosed?
Mays: When you have a good job that has insurance and you’re about to leave, a lot of us take advantage of that, which is what I did. June 30th 2008, it was my last day of work and also the day I had my mammogram. I went on to Atlanta to celebrate with my girlfriend, who has since passed away, I talk about her in my book. We were celebrating because I was going back into the music business full time. I got a call from my doctor and he informed me that I had breast cancer, I was so numb with disbelief it almost felt unreal. It didn’t really sink in for me until I was told I would need a mastectomy. I cried so much after hearing it that I couldn’t cry anymore. I realized that this was real and this was what had to be done.
Parlé: You go more in-depth in your book about your battle with cancer but do you mind sharing a little with our readers about some of your experiences?
Mays: When I was first diagnosed I refused chemo. I was told at a follow up appointment that not only was the old caner growing but a new one was forming as well. I took that as a sign from God to take the chemo. Even after being on chemo for a few months I still needed the mastectomy. It all felt like too much to bare so I prayed on it and asked God why and what I should do. I can’t explain it but I felt his presence in my heart letting me know that everything would be alright if I just put my faith in him. I’ve had my ups and downs with this disease as many people do but I am certain that God has my back when it comes to beating this.
Parlé: How has all this changed your outlook on life?
Mays: I am a terminal cancer patient but I don’t let that define me or who I am. Yes, I have this disease that is killing me slowly, but that doesn’t mean this is what will be the thing that’ll end me. I could get hit by a bus crossing the street or many other things could happen to me that are non-cancer related. I don’t let it get me down. Even if I die this year, I am proud to look back on my life and know of all the things I’ve accomplished and done. I’m going to keep it moving the best way I can, while I can.
Parlé: Tell me how the concept for your book came about?
Mays: The name of my book is called My Naked Truth About Breast Cancer And Being Single. It came to me on June 9th 2014, I had to leave my job because I was unable to work anymore due to my illness. I was lying in bed thinking about my life and everything I had been through so far. I prayed to God as to what I should do next. Many people suggested I write a book but I never felt my life was interesting enough because a lot of people have written books about dealing/living with cancer. 30 minutes later, I got a call from my friend and the whole conversation just felt God sent. During our phone conversation we came up with the title and the chapters on what I would write about. A few days later another friend told me they were at a book signing for someone they knew who was dealing with terminal cancer as well. They got them to inscribe it to me that was all I needed to hear.
Parlé: With everything going on with you, how did you find the time and energy to write this book?
Mays: It was hard writing it with the treatment, a lot of it I wrote sitting up in bed. It was all therapeutic. It was difficult for me to write about my diagnosis, mastectomy and about my girlfriend who I was very close to that passed away. After those chapters, everything else came easy to me. I had to go back and rewrite some chapters once I got some feedback from my family and friends.
Mays: I didn’t want to write a book about the same old things you usually hear about dealing with cancer like going through chemo, the weight loss, and all that stuff. I do include some stats and information about it in there but mainly the book is from my point of view and experiences being a single woman dealing with cancer. We as women already go through so much on a daily basis, but being single and dealing with cancer, not having anyone to come home to or help you and hold you to let you know everything’s going to be alright.
Parlé: Have your family and friends been supportive?
Mays: I have been fortunate enough to have family and friends that want to help me. I’ve had to ask them not to smother me. Family and friends want to come over and help but they can’t be there all the time. My family begged me to move back to Virginia, I have no family here in Florida. Although I appreciate them wanting to help I don’t want to move back until I have to. My mom comes down to visit and stays a month or two when she can. I know it all comes from love so I thank God that there are people in my life who are able to help me when they can. I don’t want to solely depend on these people, but it is good to know they’re there. I have a baby brother who was diagnosed with stage four throat cancer back in 2010, we’ve been each other’s support during these hard times. We keep telling each other to hang in there.
Parlé: Where can readers buy your book?
Mays: Go to amazon.com and get a copy of my book. Be sure to get a few copies to give away at Christmas time, birthdays or whatever.
Parlé: If you had to pick one message from your book to convey to the readers, what would it be?
Mays: We as African-American women are more susceptible to breast cancer than any other race. I urge women of all types, but especially African-Americans to go in for yearly screenings because I didn’t find out until it was too late. I encourage women to keep fighting and keep moving because it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. Every day since then has been a blessing from God.
Parlé: What are your plans for the future?
Mays: I have a second book coming out near the end of the year called Music Business: Term and More. The more comes from the fact that there will be stories from six professionals in the music business telling their stories and what they’ve learned from working in the business. I’m also working on a lingerie line for women like me who still want to look sexy, but that’ll be after the second book.
Parlé: Do you have any final words of inspiration for the readers?
Mays: Keep fighting. Life is an awesome and beautiful thing even with everything I’ve been through. God has shown me so many new and amazing things. I know God is good and he has a plan for me and he has one for you too as well no matter what’ve you’re going through or have been through. I pray for the single women who are dealing with this. I know that there are single women out there dealing with so much on top of dealing with cancer like raising kids and trying to make ends meet. The most I had to worry about before all this was keeping my overhead straight.
We appreciate Freda Mays for her time and for sharing her inspirational story. We wish her the best of luck on her continuous journey and wish her true health and wellness.