Taneisha Gist enlists social media as she fights cancer

Taneisha Gist enlists social media as she fights cancer
August 09
05:01 2018

Long before she was diagnosed with breast cancer, before she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, long before she had her breasts removed, and even before she lost her father to cancer, Taneisha Gist was resilient.  During an interview with The Chronicle last week, Gist, who is known throughout the community as Neisha, said the strength she is using to battle stage 3 breast cancer right now is something that has always been a part of who she is.

At age 10, Gist and her younger sibling were placed into foster care, where she spent time living with relatives. She said even before that she had to be strong for her younger brother. 

“We were taken away from my mom because she was on drugs, so being the oldest I was already taking care of my brother. So when we were taken away, I knew I had to provide for him,” continued Gist. “… I grew up early. My mom wasn’t there, so I had to be strong.”

Despite facing obstacles early in life, Gist, who works as an accountant for a local engineering company says she uses her life experiences as fuel and motivation to succeed and overcome challenges. She said, “I just knew I wanted more. Being from the struggle, you have to sink or swim.”

Right after landing a job at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU), things started to look-up for her. In 2015, Gist was first introduced to the illness that takes the lives of thousands of Americans each year, when her father was diagnosed with cancer. Although he wasn’t present in her life growing up, later in life Gist formed a bond with her father, and when he was diagnosed she was by his side every step of the way.

“I was Team Him from the jump. I’m writing everything down looking at insurance plans and getting things together. Everything that needed to be done I was doing it.” Gist said.

In late February before she was scheduled to get off work, Gist received some bad news from her father, the chemotherapy wasn’t working and he only had a few months to live. Gist said although it was hard to watch her father get worse as the days went by, she tried her best to keep his spirit high.

“He lived for two months, basically. My dad was 84 pounds when he died.  It was hard because I couldn’t do anything to help him nourish his body. It was hard but I’m glad my daddy didn’t have to go through that anymore. He was suffering.”

Fast forward to March of this year. Gist, 33, had just ended a complicated relationship, started her new job at Davenport Engineering, and was preparing to enroll as a student at WSSU when once again she received more bad news: stage 3 breast cancer.

“I had no symptoms. I had been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, so I was losing weight, working out every day. I broke up with my boyfriend got my new job at the engineering company. I mean, I was living the life,” laughed Gist. “I didn’t feel like anything was wrong. Life was perfect.”

Because she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer, Gist started chemotherapy immediately.  Just as she faced the other obstacles in her life – foster care, losing her father – Gist is battling her illness with poise and grace, and now others are taking notice to what it means to be #NeishaStrong.

Shortly after beginning chemotherapy, Gist began chronicling her journey on social media and the support began to grow like wildfire. She said, when she first started posting videos and pictures on social media, she had no idea she would get so much support.

A GoFundMe page started to help Gist pay for her medical expenses not covered by insurance has raised more than $4,000. And that’s just the beginning. Gist said everywhere she goes people approach her to share kind words or to let her know how she has inspired them.

On more than one occasion a stranger has even offered to pay for her food.

“I was worried about people in my inner circle, so I didn’t think I was going to have people who I didn’t even know sending stuff to my mailbox or donating money to my GoFundMe. It really shocked me,” she smiled. “… My aunt called from Detroit and said a girl had on a #NeishaStrong shirt that she ordered online. I never dreamed I would get this much support. It’s crazy.”

With her popularity on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms growing daily, while documenting her own journey, Gist has started to use her voice to encourage others to educate themselves and make regular trips to the doctor.

She said, “I have so many ideas in my head just trying to help people. I’m young and I need help going through chemo. There are a lot of older people out there can’t even fill out the paperwork to apply for the assistance they need.

“You have to properly educate yourself,” Gist continued. “I think that’s the issue; people don’t want to put in the work. We have to stop making ourselves ignorant to things we need to know.”

As expected, Gist still has some rough days. She said the hardest day she’s had so far was after she had her breasts removed last month.  But being the person that she is she didn’t let it keep her down long.

“The surgery was easy and everything, but the hardest thing was the day after. When they removed the bandages I didn’t look at my chest at all. I cried I was so scared,” said Gist. “When they removed the bandages, that’s one thing I had to overcome, but after that, I felt OK.”

Although she hasn’t had chemotherapy since June 15, Gist is still scheduled to have 10 sessions of the treatment, followed by radiation. After her battle is won, Gist said she plans to continue the #NeishaStrong movement by setting up support groups for others battling cancer and illnesses. She has already started connecting with others who are battling cancer.

“I just want to create the education that people need. I want #NeishaStrong to be so strong that it makes people want to make a change. I just want people to be strong together.”

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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