I’ve never thought of myself as a victim – even when my world was shaken with the 14 words, “I’m sorry to tell you the results of your test were positive for cancer.” With those words – a single sentence – my world was turned upside down.
My breast cancer was diagnosed as part of a routine mammogram in October of 2014. A close work friend of mine and I had agreed that we were WAY overdue for our annual mammogram, and we’d scheduled “dueling boobie presses” as part of what we called “The Mammogram Tour of 2014.” But where she came out of her test with instructions to come back the following year, I was kept behind to have them look more closely at an area in my left breast. I wasn’t concerned as I’d had this type of thing happen before, but when the regular mammogram turned into an ultrasound turned into an ultrasound guided biopsy, my world started its precarious tilt. Ultimately, I received a call confirming my worst fears on October 17, 2014.
What followed were visits with a breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon, and an oncologist. Too many faces to count – each with his or her own instructions and questions. Overwhelming doesn’t even BEGIN to describe what was going on. To tell the truth, I moped around for much of the month between diagnosis and surgery. I didn’t know what this would mean for my future, and too many questions were swirling around in a head already busy with being a mom, a wife, and a full-time account manager.
I don’t know precisely when my attitude shifted, whether it was before my surgery or after surgery during recovery. Regardless, I remember looking into the sweet face of my 10 year old daughter – who I’d told hundreds of times that “God gives His hardest battles to His strongest soldiers” – and I knew there was NO WAY I was going to let breast cancer show me to be a sham and a phony to someone who was looking to me for inspiration. From that moment, I was determined to put on my toughest face and look for the good in everything that was happening.
My birthday and Thanksgiving always fall very close together. That year, they followed my double mastectomy surgery by only a week. A dear friend of mine in the neighborhood invited my family and me to her house for Thanksgiving dinner. This meant we could enjoy the holiday without worrying how we’d get the cooking done. As I sat there with my drainage tubes and my bandaged breasts, I gave thanks for my family’s “drop everything” actions to care for me, the exceptional medical coverage at my work, for the first-rate surgeons and medical care in Atlanta, and for my friends who were rallying around me in stupefying numbers.
My next six months were filled with chemotherapy and butt-kicking. I was fortunate that my mom and dad took turns driving hundreds of miles to be with me following my infusions. This made my husband feel better about continuing to work hard, and it gave me continued reasons to stay positive. I firmly believe my recovery was hastened by my efforts to keep moving. Whether that was a daily walk with mom or dad, playing with my daughter, or continuing to go to Zumba class as I had the energy, I wasn’t going to stop moving unless I was forced.
I “graduated” from chemo on June 1, 2015. Really…I had a crown and a sash and even a scepter. To me, this was my rebirth – a sign that I was meant to take my story to my part of the world and be part of the change. Since that time, I’ve been able to help guide multiple friends and friends of friends in their breast cancer journey. I’ve worked within my company to raise awareness of the importance of mammograms and self-checks, and I’ve had the honor of being named to the Komen Atlanta Pink Honor Roll for fundraising as well as serving as a Race Ambassador for the 2016 Atlanta Race for the Cure. My daughter is very aware of breast cancer, and she raises money beside me to help find a cure. My husband, a golf instructor at an Atlanta club, will be part of the “Kim’s Breast Friends” fundraising this year with his first “Tips for Tatas” event.
My breast cancer story may have begun with a single sentence of 14 words, but my family, friends, and my positivity never let breast cancer BECOME a sentence for me. Today I can look back and know that, while breast cancer once whispered in my ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand my storm,” my will to fight and win emboldened me to whisper back, “You’re wrong. I AM the storm.”