Breast Cancer Grad-Heidi Kelly
Name: Heidi Kelly
Age at Enrollment: 38
Major: Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? I noticed a dent. Originally I thought it was a bruise, but when it didn’t go away, I started to get nervous.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? After a few months of stressing over the dent I eventually went to the doctor. I was also seeing actresses on TV talking about their breast cancer diagnosis.
Courses completed: First time around I only did double mastectomy/reconstruction and Tamoxifen. Second go round after, I found a lump on my scar. I had more surgeries, 4 rounds of chemo and 35 rounds of radiation, a hysterectomy and my ovaries removed and examestane (which causes 24/7 pain). I tried all 3 meds available and all 3 cause pain. I manage with other meds, exercise- anything else I can do to keep my mind off it.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? The hardest moment was the diagnosis. I was under 40, no family history and never thought cancer would come for me. That day I was having dinner with an uncle who had been diagnosed twice with a very serious cancer and he said, "suck it up". I went home that night and posted it to Facebook and I have been open about it ever since.
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? Take it easy, don’t push yourself too hard, your body will tell you what you can do. Talk about it, I let a lot of people in and met a lot of great people and helped some because I was so open about it. And live your life. Don’t let this stop you from doing whatever you want. You still can. I started a business. My husband and I travel as much as we can. You never know what will happen tomorrow, so don’t put it off.
How did your family and friends respond? I was one of the lucky ones. All were supportive and later I found out a lot were really worried, but they never let me know, I had enough to worry about. After my first surgery I was almost never alone for 2 weeks with husband, friends and family coming to help out. I was sent little care packages in the mail that were so great. I mean who doesn’t love getting gifts!
How did/do you find joy during this experience? I started a handbag business. Just before my diagnosis I was just starting to learn how to design my own handbags and in between surgeries 2 and 3 my husband and I started the business, HKelly designs. My husband and I travel a lot too. And I can't leave out my dogs. Currently, I have 3. When this all started we had 2 of our own and a foster. Just after my first surgery our foster was adopted. Since that time we adopted a 3rd dog. They give me someone to talk to, lol! But really just snuggling with them is a wonderful way to relieve the stress of anything.
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it? I think that is still happening. Recently, I found myself becoming depressed and I really couldn’t figure out what to do, so I wrote out all my thoughts and feelings. 20 handwritten pages later, a talk with my husband and a talk with my therapist I’m learning that I need to help others going through this. I still love making the handbags and will continue, but I needed something more substantial. I’m currently investigating volunteer options and hoping to find something where I can make a difference, instead of just donating a portion of the sales of some of my bags.