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October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. KSMU’s Julie Greene has the story of two cancer survivors and their support system.
Every year, breast cancer claims hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide. In Missouri, Breast cancer is the second main cause of cancer death in women and makes up about one-third of all cancer diagnoses. Kim Davis and Kim Diehls are two of those Missourians to be diagnosed with the disease.
In 2006 at age 42, Davis, a supervisor with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), learned she had stage 3A breast cancer.
“There was a lot of anger, a lot of disbelief of ‘This can’t be happening to me.’ And you think, ‘I’m too young, I thought this only happened to older women.’ It turned everything upside down in my life,” Davis said.
Although she knew she was sick, Davis said the diagnosis still took her by surprise because her family didn’t have a history of breast cancer. Davis’ case is very common, as over 85% of female breast cancer patients have no family history of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
She had her breast removed, plus underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. But Davis said the most difficult part wasn’t physical, but emotional, noting the first time she told her five-year-old son she was sick.
“I honestly couldn’t tell my son right away. I just couldn’t… I couldn’t use the word cancer with him. It was just the hardest thing with his age.”
Now, seven years after her original diagnosis, Davis is cancer-free.
Like Davis, Kim Diehls had no family history of breast cancer. She works as a project manager for Springfield Public Schools and was diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer in 2008.
“It was shocking. I was actually in my car on my way back to the office when the doctor called back with the results. When he got on the phone, I knew something was wrong,” Diehls said.
To those fighting the disease, both Davis and Diehls recommend trying to stay positive, and getting involved with organizations like the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks.
“There’s an amazing group of survivors who do a lot of the events that volunteer, and they are my support group. We do things all the time, and it’s like a whole new pink sisterhood, as they call it. You need to reach out to other people who have been through it because they’re the ones that understand,” Diehls said.
The Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, or BCFO, is a nonprofit organization that specializes in aiding individuals and families affected by the disease. This year, they’re expected to help around 350 local patients.
Crystal Webster, the executive director of the organization, advises individuals to conduct a monthly self-breast exam to check for lumps or other abnormalities, and suggests women receive an annual mammogram starting at age 40.
If women can’t afford a mammogram, the BCFO can provide the service free of charge to uninsured individuals at 13 different medical facilities in the region.
To contact the organization, visit their website www.bcfo.org or call the organization directly at 417-862-3838.
For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.