Advanced Breast Cancer Survivor

Doctor uses humor and good spirits as weapons in her battle

A native of Chicago and a Navy veteran, Kimberly Parker now lives in Baltimore, Md., and is the mother of three daughters. She worked as a federal police officer for most of her life and enjoys reading, Turner Classic Movies, traveling and jazz.

 

I guess I’m more resilient than I thought. I may not have said that a few years ago when I first discovered a lump. It was a good thing I paid attention that morning because that lump led me to the doctor’s office. Then it was only a matter of weeks from the initial biopsy to a diagnosis of Stage IV metastatic breast cancer and then to surgery.

That cancer news was tough. I was devastated. I was mostly concerned about how to explain this to my daughters, and I also had to shake off that feeling of dread. But I declared I was going to fight; I could live with only one breast because I wanted to live.

Telling people about the cancer was tough for me. I’m a fairly private person, and I noticed that some people seemed to change when they heard the news. For the most part, I discuss my challenges only with my daughters and my mother, although sometimes not even them because I don’t want them to worry.

The surgery removed my right breast along with 90 percent of my lymph nodes, but the cancer has spread to my breastbone, behind where the breast was removed. I’m currently on hormone therapy as well as an additional medicine to combat the neuropathy caused by the aggressive chemotherapy treatments. So I try to just rest when my body tells me to and get massages and acupuncture when I need it. I’ve also changed my diet, trying to eat as many vegetables as I can and sticking to only organic meat.

There are still many moments when I feel broken. I see a therapist weekly to discuss how this whole process has changed me, both emotionally and physically—plus just to deal with the fact that I am a cancer patient.

Thankfully, I feel very supported by my children and my extended family, my close friends, and of course, my mother, and I depend on my faith a great deal. Through it all, I’ve found that I have an inner determination and strength, even though I also know I’m more vulnerable than I’d like to admit. But it’s focused me on what’s truly important: my family.

Today, I’m becoming involved with teaching those in impoverished areas the importance of early detection and regular mammograms. I also want to share my experience because I know how much I appreciated hearing those personal stories when I was going through treatments. Hopefully, I can help others through that initial cancer diagnosis as well as the surgeries, chemotherapy, hair loss, weight loss and the emotional and physical toll this disease takes on you.

For women currently battling their own breast cancer, my advice is to connect with your family and friends to get all the support you need. Get a doctor with a good bedside manner, one who’s not abrupt or dismissive, but one who takes the time to truly listen and respond. Make use of any moment you have by yourself to take stock of what you desire in life—and plan for it! Laugh as much as possible; it helps in the healing process and keeps you away from worry and feeling sorry for yourself.

Mostly, I want to let others know you can still “live” and that you will see the light at the end—and not the light that people say they see when they’re dying. You’ll see the light in which to dance, like old disco lights.

 

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