Throughout my teaching career I have promoted women’s health and wellness, a deciding factor when becoming the faculty advisor for the Bra Couture KC student volunteers from the University of Central Missouri. My advocacy took on special meaning in September, 2015 when I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma breast cancer that was estrogen and HER2 positive.
Upon hearing the doctor’s diagnosis, I remember having an “out-of body-experience” and quickly felt overwhelmed with questions, concerns, and emotions. My medical team from the University of Kansas Medical Center assured me the tumor was at an early stage but the type of cancer would require undergoing chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and estrogen-blocking medication.
Treatment was taxing and unpleasant at times, but support of my family and friends along with my doctors (Anne O’Dea, Jamie Wagner, and Carole Fabian) my cancer battle became bearable. My husband Jim was my steadfast support along with our children James, Kristin and Matthew. They accompanied me to treatment-related appointments, celebrated milestones along the way, and most importantly, encouraged me to remain positive and courageous when my cancer battle became overwhelming or challenging. My mother, siblings, and friends provided freezer meals, cleaned my house, or simply sent daily words of encouragement to keep my spirits high. I was constantly reminded of how much I benefited from their unwavering support. Without them by my side, my cancer story would have been so different.
One of the many things I’ve learned during this journey is screening and early detection can be vital in fighting cancer. Not only did I have an early cancer diagnosis after a routine mammogram, our daughter found through a genetic test she was at increased risk for breast cancer. As a result, we will continue to have proactive medical care and screenings to assure our best chance for a cancer-free future.
I also learned it’s important to pay forward what was awarded to me in my life challenge. Volunteering with Bra Couture KC has given me a chance to help others who are in need and been inspired by women whose stories are similar to mine. Their bravery, strength, and positivity gave me confidence to face my cancer. In return, I hope to pay it forward and inspire others.
Lastly, I am reminded we have but a short time to make an impact in life or show appreciation for the gifts we’ve been given. I have been humbled through this journey, faced my mortality and confronted my fears. I’ve also been filled with empowerment, inner strength and determination to beat cancer. I’ve been so fortunate in life, married my soulmate and raised talented, loving children who are continuing our legacy. Therefore, I am making a pledge to put cancer aside and give frequent kisses/hugs to those I love, laugh until it hurts, discover new interests, notice the simple things in life, and see the world’s wonders. For whatever my future holds these are my truths…
I am loved,
I am blessed, and
I will have a life well lived