Kathy’s Story: 16 years and counting
I grew up in the sixties and seventies when a root beer float (or ‘black cow’ as we call it here in the South), a red vinyl bar stool, and Johnny Angel crooning from the jukebox at the local drug store, were as close to heaven as one could get. It was an innocent childhood filled with sleepovers under the stars, unlocked doors, and catching lightening bugs in Mason Jars. It did not prepare me for the cold reality ahead.
Right after college I married and moved out to California where my husband was a part of the first graduating class for the brand new Top Gun program. We were crazy about each other. However, a series of unexpected and uncontrollable events soon sent our relationship spiraling out of control. Fearing for my life, I left California and the man I so desperately loved behind. I returned from California a different woman. Broken. A ghost of my former self. With shaky steps, I slowly became stronger. Gradually, I began to reclaim my life.
Before long I was re-married, had two children, and moved to Denver, Colorado where my husband Gene, was based with United Airlines. Just when my life couldn’t get any happier, I was blind-sided by a diagnosis of breast cancer. No family history, no indicators. I was thirty-five at the time and had two young children, ages three and seven. Once again my faith was rocked to the core. But this time I held onto God’s promises. The Bible became my constant companion. I beat cancer not once, but twice – when almost nine-and-a-half years later the cancer metastasized to my lungs. I had been only six months away from being declared cancer free. But by the grace of God, I am here to tell my story.
It has been twenty-six years now since my initial diagnosis and the mastectomy and sixteen years since it metastasized and the grueling lobectomy. The road has not been easy. For years, cancer was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning, and the last thing I thought about before I went to bed.
But I am here to assure you that it does get better. I believe that the Lord wants nothing more than for you to be healed and to prosper. I want to share my message with other women who may find themselves in similar situations. Maybe their faith has been shattered and they can’t see a way out. I want to let them know that there is always hope despite the doctor’s diagnosis. I believe that God is the great physician, and by the stripes of Jesus Christ, I have been healed.
I have metastatic breast cancer. I was first diagnosed in 1992 and had a left mastectomy and chemo. All check ups were good for 24 years and it returned this Spring, 2016, to both lungs and my bones, 2 ribs and my sternum. I had lung drains on both sides and they were removed after 3 months. I’m on letrozole and Ibrance. I hope to be one of you and tell my story in 10 years. I believe in the power of God and positive thinking along with healthy diet and exercise. I’ve been getting stronger and my cancer markers are down. Congratulations Katherine. You are and inspiration to me.
Martha Hatch, I would really love to converse with you. I am just getting ready to start letrozole and Ibrance. I was diagnosed with Metastatic Stage 4 Breast Cancer 8 years after my first diagnosis. Would like to know how your side effects are. I too believe in the Power of God. Prayer is the way.
In 2013, at the age of 35, I was diagnosed with triple-positive Stage 1 breast cancer. Only a year and a half later in 2015, I was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer, Stage 2B. Here I was, 37 years old, being told, “Mrs. Riley, unfortunately, your breast cancer has reoccurred in the same area.”
Hearing that I had cancer the first time was horrible, but to hear it for the second time was absolutely devastating. I knew in order for me to survive this next round with cancer, I had to go back to the place of peace that God overwhelmed me with during my first battle. However, this time getting back to that place was not easy.
My treatment in 2013 had consisted of a bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery. I had chosen not to take chemo or Tamoxifen. But because the cancer had returned in such little time, now my best (and maybe only) option was to undergo chemo and radiation, in addition to surgery and more reconstruction.
This journey has also allowed my family to appreciate one another and cherish every moment together.