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Kay’s Journey: A Survivor’s Story

The Douglas County Herald is currently featuring stories of local cancer survivors and their challenge to regain health. This week Kay Hutchison shares her journey.

By Kay Hutchison

Surprise! We have all had surprises, some good, some bad. My surprise was more of a shock, I think. 

In June, 2006, I discovered a lump, a “goose egg” would be more like it, under my left arm, down on my side. After thinking about it for a few weeks and realizing it was not going away, I made the appointment. 

I had never had a mammogram, but the test was done, the biopsy, and the bad news you have malignant breast cancer, all in one day. 

Never let anyone tell you that does not strike fear in your heart. 

On the short walk to the elevator, I was thinking what will my family do if I’m not here. Through the tears I whispered the news to my husband, he kept patting me on the back and saying, “it will be okay.”

I was setup with an oncologist, Dr. Hoos, but he had gall bladder surgery and instead, I was so fortunate to change to Dr. Cunningham. He is a kind, caring doctor who said, we must be very aggressive in your treatment. 

Surgery came right away, with a lumpectomy and lymph nodes taken from under my arm. The aggressive treatment included chemotherapy and radiation, shortly thereafter. 

Some said they would never let them do chemo, but when they tell you that is what will save your life, the choice is not too hard to make. 

Chemo began for several weeks, followed by 36 days in a row of radiation. The road got long and tiresome, but Harold went every day and we made it okay. 

Many friends and family were good to offer to drive us.  

My most traumatic day came, after two weeks of chemo when my hair began to fall out in clumps. My daughter ordered wigs, which I used, I just was not one of those brave ladies that didn’t need them. The first time I wore one to church, I couldn’t keep from crying, when I looked in the mirror. Again, some said that would not bother them, but without eyebrows and lashes, you have no expression.

With radiation came a warning, there will probably be a burn come with it. Indeed there was, a huge crater under my arm, which took longer to get over than the treatment.

All of this continued into 2007, plus five years of the cancer drug. About a year later, I woke one morning to my arm being quite swollen. Another doctor visit to find out I had lymphedema, from all the lymph nodes being removed, with no help except compression garments, and that continues  today.

It helped so much to have family, friends, church family and those who called everyday to say, “how are you today?”  The Douglas County Herald allowed me to continue to work part time, which was a great incentive to keep me going forward.