My name is Kellee Southern and like most women, I thought had my life under control. And then on my Dec., 27, 2012 my 45th birthday, I received the news that would forever change my life. This is my story. I’m just a regular everyday working woman, mother and wife. No big celebrity here, but I hope to share about how to embrace your journey when the unexpected happens.
I have been getting my yearly mammograms like I was supposed to since I was 39. I skipped one in 2011, just one. So when I had my mammogram in early Dec. 2012 I was very sore afterwards and while examining my breast, I felt a lump. I never noticed that before, so I assumed something happened with the mammogram, but I was immediately worried. I called the doctor because it was right before the holiday and asked if they could review my mammogram before the holiday because now I was concerned. Well the doctor called me back within the hour and said yes, they see something in the area I was describing and I needed to come in for some more extensive testing. After the other tests and biopsies they gave me the news that I had Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma & Right Axillary Lymph Node Metastatic Carcinoma. In the blink of an eye, my whole life changed.
Last year my life has consisted of biopsies, CT scans, echocardiograms, MRI’s, blood tests, 6 rounds of chemotherapy, a bilateral radical mastectomy, 1st part of breast reconstruction surgery, 35 rounds of radiation, 10 infusions, physical therapy, loss of hair, loss of fingernails, loss of toenails, nausea, upset stomach, severe weakness, hot flashes, shingles, lost taste buds, dehydration, decreased appetite, increased appetite, weight loss and weight gain and I could go on and on.
So many folks wanted to know how you continue to smile while going through all this. So this is what I share about Embracing your Journey, no matter what your journey may be (illness, divorce, job loss, death of a family member…)
Being true to your feelings…
When I was first diagnosed, I was so overwhelmed. The doctors were giving me so much information, I had to make decisions, and everyone who was ever diagnosed or knew someone who was diagnosed wanted to give me advice. I got books, emails, and mail all with advice on how I should fight this thing. I appreciated all the concern, but when the doctor says Cancer………..everything just stops. Your heart skips a beat, lungs gasp for air, ears block out sound, eyes become still and wet, stomach contracts. Your mind and emotions wrestle for control. It took me a minute to process it and what was said and what I needed to do to fight this. I went from a range of emotions of sad, to scared, to angry, anxious, to guilty, to shocked, to depressed, to worried, to relieved, to happy, to amazed, to acceptance and back in that same cycle again and again…… And I found, the only way to make it through each of those feelings wasn’t to fight them, but to embrace them and allow myself to experience each of them. It’s a sign that you are working through it in order to release it. (Iyanla Vazant) I was literally on an emotional rollercoaster and there was no escape. I had to ride it to the end to appreciate the journey. I knew that God was going to let me fall off that rollercoaster.
Surround yourself with supportive and loving people
I have been blessed with the most supportive family. My husband who I call my “Django” (because if you saw the movie, when Django rode up to the plantation and his woman was being held captive in the well, he was determined to save her…..that was my husband, he wasn’t going to let cancer win), my mother ( what can I say, I have the best mother on earth, while I know she was worried to death about her baby girl, she stood strong and proud like I have always seen her do) my 2 wonderful sons who while quietly worrying about me, put on faces of sheer strength and stood by me through everything, always checking in on me and my baby girl (my mini-me, my ride and die chick……she was a pillar of strength, always by my side, looking at me and making sure I had what I needed). I have also been blessed with my church and work family and numerous family and friends who have gone over and beyond to support to me. This part was made easy for me because of all the loving circles I already had in place. And social networking became a bonus. I used social networking (Facebook and a personal blog) to share with my loved ones. While this was my selfish route, so I didn’t have to repeat the same thing over and over, I found that it became therapeutic for me to share and while I was sharing to get the info out there to my family and friends, little did I know I was inspiring. I ended up opening up a whole new circle of friends and meeting other Pink Sisters in which we continue to support each today through each step of our journeys.
And then there is Hope & Faith
I grew up in the church. I had to go as a child and I wanted to go as an adult. Always listening and learning and just living my “happy” little life. I am not saying my life was perfect and undisturbed. I have been through some trials before and some pretty serious things and I know that there is a God and he has brought me through before, but this was different. I actually said when I was diagnosed, really God….with all that I have already been through, can you give me a break??? Never knowing that I was being prepared for a true walk of faith and hope.
After my first chemo, I became so ill and I had to return to the hospital and at that point, I realized it was out of my control. The fear began to sink in and I was ready to give up. I literally sat in the bed so weak and just cried and asked God…Why Me….I can’t do this 5 more times. This is impossible for anyone to do. I am poisoning myself to save myself. I can’t do the things I am used to doing. I am a get up and go kind of girl and I wasn’t going anywhere. Well my hubby heard me crying and came and sat with me. Now he is a youth football and basketball coach, so he immediately starts to say, so you just going to quit, huh, just like that. You just going to lose the game. I had to laugh. I was like No, not just like that, but like this……. I feel so bad, so weak and I’m scared the chemo is going to kill me before the cancer. I had never felt this out of control in my life before. So after my 2nd chemo, the sickness set in again and I knew what I needed to do. Be still and pray. So I did, I just laid down very still and said a simple pray to God…..God you are in control, please take control of this cancer and see me through this treatment. Within an hour a calmness came over me and I actually felt well enough to get out of the bed of which I had been in for 2 days. Wait, seek me, be still……….
When I stopped trying to be in control, God showed off.
So I stand here today “Cured and Cancer free”!!!! God is so good. I would like to be a beacon of hope for others and pray I can be a lighthouse for those who come after me and have to endure this same journey. I want to give back and be here for other Breast Cancer fighters who may just need someone who knows all too well about this fight and I can lend an ear or a shoulder of support.
”Embrace your Journey and be a force so bright they can hardly see the dark”.