“When people tell me I’m a hero…I don’t think I’ve done anything heroic,” said Kathy Jeffries.  Last year around the end of October, Jeffries found a lump.  She had a mammogram and ultrasound done, finding a fluid-filled cyst.  The radiologist said they could give it six months and then see how it goes.

“I didn’t know what to do, I was nervous, scared. I’ve never been sick. Ever. Nothing…I asked the doctor if it was his wife, would he have it aspirated right away. He said yes. Looking back, this whole experience is frustrating. I was frustrated I had to put my life in these people’s hands, trusting him. He was factual. I was being emotional.”

“One in a hundred cysts have cancer,” Jeffries said.  “What did I do?  Because I’m so fat?  Because I drink?”  Jeffries biggest fear now is having it come back.  “There are so many unanswered questions…”

Before cancer, Jeffries said, “I was a workaholic… I am so much more chilled out about stuff.  I used to get upset about things, but it’s heping me take a breath and say it really isn’t that urgent. But in a bad way too, I feel my expiration date has been altered.  You know, that bucket list. We were talking about building a house…before I got cancer.”

Jeffries opted for a lumpectomy.  With chemo, she lost her hair, her skin got so dry, and her tongue was burned; she had to watch her mouth for sores.  “I was feeling tired and woozy. Upset to my stomach. I had mild symptoms compared to some people.”  Though her symptoms were “mild” compared to some others, “losing your hair, that’s what makes you a woman.  Having breasts,” Jeffries said.  After her first chemo treatment, it took “14 days, and all my hair was out. It started coming out in clumps, in the shower.  I just went and got it shaved. I started wearing wigs, keeping my head covered. I had a hard time looking at myself without hair. I felt very ugly. I wouldn’t look when I had my hair off. Looking in the mirror without hair was a reminder that I was sick.”
“People see me now and I’m exercising, trying to live my life…on the inside it’s been less than a year; I still have pains from the surgery.  I feel like my brain’s broken.”

Jeffries said, “I’m a caretaker. It’s the nature of who I am. It was really hard to let people take care of me. I felt weak, completely incompetent. I had to be okay with it.  It’s still hard. I should be focusing on my health and not worrying about little things. I worry that people see me as incompetent. I try to swallow my pride and say, life is different. It’s okay to let people do things for me.”

As far as how this affected her marriage, Jeffries said, “It brought us together closer as a couple. It’s completely changed us. I had to let him take care of me and be okay with it. And he did a fabulous job.  It made our relationship stronger…but there are strains taking care of somebody…”
As far as friends are concerned, Jeffries said, “Some stepped up, wanted to do whatever they could…other friends drifted away, didn’t want to talk about it…I don’t want it to define who I am, though it affected more than just my body.  It affected my relationships.”

“The biggest thing that helped me was knowing I’m not alone”, Jeffries said.  To someone who has just been diagnosed, Jeffries said, “Don’t do it alone. Cancer sucks.  I don’t want it to define who I am, but it’s part of my life.  Get checked every three months.  A year ago when I did a half marathon, that’s when I found it.  And now I’m gonna go get ready for my next half marathon.”

As far as gratitude goes, Jeffries said, “The gratitude in my heart is overwhelming. Everyone who’s supported me and helped me…it’s overwhelming. The love I feel… I want to try to pay it back. I’m trying to heal, my body, and my head.  I just want to try to repay everyone who’s helped me. I don’t know how, but I want to try. Just, when you hear the word ‘cancer,’ when it’s in your life, it changes your life forever.”