Dormica Clagon James’ daughter Chantel (Telly) was her best friend. When Dormica got pregnant at 16, she didn’t know what to expect, or how her life would change. She had a difficult pregnancy, at one point needing to be airlifted for medical attention following an asthma attack and seizure that stopped her heart. When Telly was born, it was love at first sight – she came into this world fighting and never stopped.
Chantel was a remarkably positive child. From a young age, she encouraged those around her to succeed in whatever way that meant for them. She even encouraged her mother to go back to school and get her Master’s Degree.
“She was my biggest cheerleader,” according to Dormica, “she caused me to mature at a young age because I wanted the best out of life for both of us.” Chantel was always a daddy’s girl, and loved spending quality time with her father, Delta, on special dinners and outings.
Eventually, Dormica and Delta had two more children. Telly was an important role model for her brother Chamodd, and her baby sister Gabbi. The family lived together in North Carolina, where Chantel played volleyball, basketball, and softball. She excelled at academics and graduated early from high school as a member of the Honor Society. She was popular and had a reputation for being kind and honest; Chantel always told people the truth, no matter how hard it was to hear.
Chantel met the man she would marry when she was 17. Rondric was a cousin of one of her friends, and they hit it off when he came to town from Indiana. Rondric had recently completed National Guard service, and he and Chantel were immediately sure of each other. Within three years of meeting, they married when Chantel was 20.
When Telly was young, she always said that she wanted to be a scientist. After graduating high school, she fulfilled her dream and became a pharmacy technician. There was a strong family history of cancer, especially among the women in the family, including breast cancer, cervical cancer, and ovarian cancer. Chantel wanted to contribute to the field of cancer research, and was in the process of going back to school to become a certified Clinical Research Associate/Pharmacist.
In 2020, Chantel started to have digestive issues, including severe stomach pain. She was initially diagnosed with diverticulitis, but the pain persisted and she went back to the doctor. Chantel was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer at the age of 25. The whole family was shocked. Being who she was, though, Chantel’s main concern was the rest of the family.
Throughout her two year battle with cancer, Chantel’s family was ready to be right by her side every step of the way. The COVID-19 pandemic complicated things, but Chantel’s care team made sure that Dormica and Rondric could be in the hospital with her when she received treatment.
The rest of the family would stand outside with balloons and signs with words of encouragement. Chantel went into remission for a short while in 2021, though the cancer came back and spread to her lungs. Late in the year, Chantel caught COVID, which compounded the cancer in her lungs and made it difficult to breathe. When it was time for hospice, Telly chose to be at home so that friends and family could visit freely.
Chantel passed on January 28, 2022 after spending quality time with her immediate and extended family, and her beloved companion her dog, Chauncey. As she took her last breath, her mother and husband reassured her, “It’s okay.” During the hardest days of her cancer treatment, Chantel would always tell her mother, “Listen, if I can smile, you have to smile.”
Chantel’s funeral was held at the local high school gym, and jam-packed with friends, family, coworkers, and plenty of sunflowers. To keep Chantel’s legacy alive, Dormica hopes to open a nonprofit in Chantel’s name to support students who want to study pharmacology or work in cancer research. She also hopes to help spread awareness of the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer and encourage early screening at health fairs and wellness events.
Before she died, Chantel got financial support from the Cancer Society to have her eggs frozen. These eggs were fertilized and are now three viable embryos. Rondric and Chantel always wanted to have children together, and it is still his hope that when the time is right, they will bring new life.RETURN TO FACES OF BLUE SCREENING OPTIONS GET EDUCATED