Describing herself as “vigilant” about her healthcare, Lisa Y. Settles, Esq. made sure she received her routine mammograms. So, when Settles received a follow-up letter after a mammogram revealed “suspicious activity,” she followed its recommendations to go for additional testing.
“That was in 2011,” recalled Settles. “I was so nervous when I received that letter which was right before I was leaving for Chicago for a trip with my sister. When I returned from my trip, I had the additional testing done, and there was no cancer. The following year, I received the same kind of letter regarding suspicious activity and to come in for further testing. I’m not going to say I blew it off, but I was not concerned or alarmed like I was the previous year.”
She continued, “I thought it sounded like I was okay, but knew I still needed to go. However, when I went in and got tested, they said they needed to do more testing.”
The native Washingtonian said she underwent a battery of tests, screenings, sonograms and more. Settles was in her kitchen one unforgettable 2012 day when her phone rang.
“It was about 11 o’clock that morning when I received the call. I was told that cancer cells were found and I needed to make sure I received treatment. It happened to also be about six weeks after my mother had a recurrence of uterine cancer.”
This would be the beginning of Settles’ breast cancer journey, which she would embark on with her mother who had been diagnosed with uterine cancer five years earlier.
“My mother and I kept a picture dictionary of my journey. She suggested I start one. She and I were both were going through chemotherapy at the same time.”
Settles, whose full head of bouncy, lengthy hair would never give any indication she had gone through a period where she lost all of it, said her picture dictionary forever captured both the difficult and triumphant moments of her journey.
“I have photos of when I started losing my hair, when my hair started growing back, and when it all came back. Keeping that picture dictionary was therapeutic for me. Few people knew what I was going through at the time.”
Settles’ extensive legal career includes working as a law clerk and legislative assistant for the late Elijah E. Cummings when he served as Speaker Pro Tem of the Maryland General Assembly.
She also worked in private practice at Pessin Katz Law, P.A. While fighting for clients in the courtroom, she was also fighting her own personal battle with breast cancer.
“When I received the news about my diagnosis, I sat at the kitchen table, finished a cup of coffee and was about to write a brief. I got up from where I was, walked to my living room to the bistro table and sat down. I just started writing. I said, ‘Lord, I don’t know why.’ I asked in that moment that He make me a showcase of His glory.”
Settles has been a glowing showcase. She said she followed her recommended treatment plan and that her breast cancer is in remission.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), in 2023, about 297,790 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women and approximately 43,700 women will die from the disease.
“Being a showcase to God’s glory was what I kept in the forefront of my mind. It helped me focus when I was going through a lot. For me, when I looked in the mirror and didn’t see myself looking back, it was very hard.”
Settles’ team of doctors included Lauren A. Schnaper, MD, a nationally recognized breast surgeon at the GBMC Sandra and Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center.
“Dr. Schnaper showed me images I had taken the year before in 2011, the ones I had taken the following year in 2012, and the difference. Early detection was the key.”
Settles was recently installed as president of the Baltimore County Bar Association (BCBA) and selected ACS as the organization’s partner charity. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and serves as First Vice President of the Sorority’s Baltimore County Alumnae Chapter.
“For me, this was a very personal spiritual journey,” said Settles. “There are times when God requires us to walk our talk. It’s one thing to say you’re a Christian,…it’s one thing to say that you have faith…but it’s another thing to have to walk it out. For me, my cancer journey required me to walk out my faith.”