Celebrating Cancer Free: must read for girls

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Today is a big day to celebrate a huge milestone that Kim is cancer free.  Today is the day, that one year ago she heard the most amazing news that she was officially cancer free.
I wrote out her story from what I watched her go through.

The woman celebrating is my best friend of 13 years.  13 years ago, I first met her when I interviewed her for a teacher's assistant position in my special ed classroom.  She was really quiet when I first met her and I wasn't too sure her and I would be a good match to work side by side for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week because I am the opposite of quiet.  But, her personality was a perfect match for the students that I taught.  And in just a few short months, I just loved her.  She's still quiet to this day, doesn't say a lot but when she does...she has quite a bit to say and is always filled with certainty.  Not to be too cheesy, but I know that this is...but Kim is really that girl that lives a simple life with relationships and gives beyond herself for her family.  Needless to say, as my friend she has taught me more than I could put into words.

I always tease her because she is older than me and still the running joke that I'll never let her forget. But I know with her being older than me, she's gone through experiences that has made her the strong woman she is that doesn't second guess her instincts and feeds her determination. 
Which I believe is what helped her beat breast cancer.  Breast cancer is every woman's worst fear.  You hear that and think...first thing to go is what most women cherish most, their breasts and then their hair.

A year ago, after her son was married and deployed to Afghanistan, my twin sister invited her to a vacation in San Diego.  But before our vacation, Kim had found another lump in her breast.  I write another, because every year for the past 4 years...she has had lumps in her breasts.  It was something  we just about expected every year.  

And every year, they remove the lumps. 

And every year, the lumps are benign.

But the doctor's plan of action for this lump was different.  Her doctor had advised her to wait a year before removing the lump because of her history and wanting to hold off on another procedure.  She and her husband sat in the doctor's office, hearing the doctor's opinion and with true Kim certainty...didn't think twice and disagreed.  I remember hearing her tell me.  

Kim told the doctor,  "No, I want it out.  If I wasn't born with it then I want it gone."  And that is Kim in a small example.  She always speaks with certainty and doesn't waiver.  She's probably going to seriously shake her head laughing about this but from all the procedures she's had to remove lumps, let's just say she was getting smaller.  But, she didn't care.
After coming home from vacation, she went in for the lumpectomy.  Again, at that point seems routine for her every year.

But then, a week later while I was grocery shopping with my three children, I got a call from her.  First thing she asked was where I was and if I had my kids with me.  Then telling me that I needed to call her when I got home and could sit down without the kids near me.    Oddly enough, I didn't think anything about what she said.  We tend to have super brief phone calls and are always the first call when we need to vent.  I had assumed she was calling me with a personal frustration she'd been struggling with.  Then when driving home, it hit me...she probably got the test results back.

I came home, put a movie on for the kids and went outside.  I called her and she told me to sit down. Then the dreaded news.  

She had breast cancer.  The lump that was removed, and biopsied, had cancer cells.

I didn't cry. I just sat there. We both sat on the phone quiet at times, me trying to process and asking questions with her trying to repeat the call with her doctor to me.  
She told me that when listening to her doctor tell the diagnosis, the doctor keep speaking in medical terms.  Kim had told the doctor to stop and to just call it what it was.  It was cancer.  And wanted the doctor to just say cancer.
For me, I was watching my best friend Julie's mother finishing her treatment for her breast cancer. And let me write, Julie's mom's fight with breast cancer was a struggle every day.  I remembered when she lost her hair, visiting to only see her barely get out of bed and often times having to go to the ER because of the treatment side effects.  That is how I saw breast cancer. 
Breast cancer was ugly and brutal.

After Kim got the diagnosis, of all times...the doctor went on vacation and told Kim she'd call her back when she returned in a week.  Okay...seriously, deliver that news and then not be able to talk more with the doctor about it.  That was just insane to me.

When Kim met with the doctor she again heard unexpected news.  Her breast cancer was stage 0.  

Seriously, stage 0!  We didn't even know cancer could have a stage 0.  Thankfully Kim had that stage. Basically what the meant was that the cancer cells hadn't divided yet.  The cancer was contained and her prognosis was great.  After hearing all the treatment plans for attacking her cancer, Kim chose the most aggressive route....a double mastectomy.  

Kim was determined to not have to ever worry about a lump in her breasts again.  She was done with them and didn't care about having them removed.

Before her surgery, there were obviously tons of fears, anxiety and hours upon hours spent on the internet.  But one thing Kim didn't want to do was compare her breast cancer to other cases.  She was adamant to not hear about other stories.  And she kept her breast cancer a secret.  She didn't even tell her coworkers why she was taking extended time off for her surgery and recovery.  She simply didn't want to hear others try to relate by sharing stories of others they knew, the sweet apologies for what she was going through and just wanted to face it privately with her family and close friends.

Thankfully, her surgery went well and her recovery was incredible.  Sure there have been struggles since the surgery that naturally come with a mastectomy but she had taken it all on and made it through.

And today, today is the day that marks the first year that she heard the amazing news that she is CANCER FREE!  


Here are pictures from the vacation with took with Kim and her family in Pinetop last weekend.  The only important person missing is her son and daughter in law, who is serving in the Army. But they sure were missed.

Even though she is thrilled to be cancer free and beat it...after the news she was telling me she felt a little guilty.  Not sure that was the word she used but it was along the lines of feeling a little bad.  She had mixed feelings because she considers herself one of the lucky women.  She knows there are hundreds of women that don't have it as easy as she had it.  That is a feeling I could never relate to.  Kim can identify with all the women that have heard that diagnosis. 
She was afraid of potentially facing all the aggressive forms of chemotherapy and all the fears she had are still real to her which is why she has mixed feelings.  Because she knew what she was afraid of going through, there are hundreds of women enduring that treatment...and she wanted to keep her cancer quiet because of the pain she felt for the other women.  That hurt me to hear because she deserved to celebrate that great news.  And a year later, she is finally celebrating. And reminding herself that she's thankful she beat it, for herself and her family.
I also know, had she not taken her health into her own hands and listened to the doctor's opinion, she would have a different story about her breast cancer.  If she waited a year to check on that lump again, what stage would her cancer be?    Happily, she won't have to ever answer that question.


KBG said...

How thankful we are for this wonderful news, Kim! Your pictures look great. Just missing one of Kim and Tami!

Nancy Proffitt said...

WooHoo for you Kim!!! I'm glad you all could have a little vacation in heaven! All the pictures are wonderful! LYG, N