December 17, 2013

Kathy Webb | Breast Cancer Survivor

Kathy Webb celebrated her Seed of Hope ceremony following her final chemotherapy session. At the ceremony, she presented the Cancer Institute and UAMS hospital with a donation of more than $1,500 in gift cards and Ensure nutritional drinks to be given to patients in need. The gift cards and drinks were donated by Kathy’s friends and family to assist patients who lack adequate food or who struggle to pay for the gas needed to get to their medical appointments.

If you are interested in contributing to patients who need assistance with basic needs, you can make a gift online and designate it to the Cancer Institute Patient Support Fund. For information, call (501) 526-2277.

“Experiencing cancer has made me live in the present and be more mindful. It has helped me focus on gratitude and blessings, and not sweat as much about the small stuff. It has made me really think about how I want to spend the rest of my life, both personally and career-wise. I have become more receptive to help; one can’t do this alone.

My family has been the main source of comfort, along with my many friends who have rallied around me through Meal Train, the Race for the Cure Team, Facebook, church and work. Daily meditation has been a blessing, and is something new in my life.

I think it’s important for people who are newly diagnosed to realize that this is a personal journey, and you should decide how to pursue it for yourself. If you want to read a lot of books and talk to lots of people, do it. If you don’t, don’t. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries and keep them. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

It isn’t easy, but this is something you can’t go around. You have to go through it. If you have family and friends, use them for support. If not, use all of the resources at the Cancer Institute that are available to you. This includes choosing a wig, getting hats and scarves, meeting with the dietician, and perhaps joining a support group.

Get a notebook early on, and, if possible, have a friend or family member go to appointments with you to take notes. There will be so much information, and as a newly diagnosed patient, you may be in shock. Having a note-taker will enable you to review what was discussed without distractions.

Initially, everything happened so quickly, and I think I was in shock. One of the most significant moments was after the second surgery when Dr. Henry-Tillman told me the lymph nodes they removed were cancer-free. A second significant moment was getting through my first chemotherapy treatment. Chemo can be scary, and making it through helped my confidence that I could get through it! A third key moment was after the third treatment, when I could begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Finishing treatment is huge, but scary at the same time. It is like the umbilical cord has been cut and you are out there more on your own. It is the end of one phase of the journey, but not the whole journey.

I hope this experience will change me for the better. While I had a balance that worked for me before, I am now working on a new balance. I excel at “doing” but less at “being.” I want to concentrate on taking better care of myself, in all aspects of my life.

I have been listening to my body through this journey and I want to continue to do that. I have spent more time with family and friends and want to continue that. Being present is important — less multitasking and more mindfulness. As a Type-A+ personality, I’d be happy to drop to an A- or B+! It is important that I follow my calling of service to others and the community, and not waste time on things that don’t matter.

On a basic level, I look forward to no more side effects of chemo and no more fatigue. As someone who has been an athlete, I have missed working out, lifting weights and being active. I look forward to resuming those activities, which help me physically, emotionally and mentally.

I look forward to traveling again and spending time in Chicago and Santa Fe. I look forward to resuming my community activities, in a more balanced way. During treatment, I didn’t go to the movies, go to church, or out to eat with family and friends, and I look forward to doing those things. Spending time with family and friends is important, and I will continue to do that. And, I look forward to incorporating all the good things I learned on this journey into my “new and improved” life. I also look forward to working with the Cancer Institute to provide food resources to those going through treatment without adequate food. Being able to do this has been a huge blessing of this journey.

While it isn’t a journey I would have chosen, or would wish on anyone, there have been blessings. I’ve learned a lot about myself, facing fears and anxieties. Occasionally, I wondered if I could do it, but putting one foot in front of the other, and relying on my faith, family and friends, I made it through treatment.

The team at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute is amazing. I didn’t consider going anywhere else. From my first meeting with Dr. Henry-Tillman, I knew I was in good hands. All of my questions were patiently answered, and no doctor or nurse ever made me feel rushed.

All of the news, from the diagnosis, through the surgeries, was explained in a compassionate manner. The chemotherapy treatment was explained in a very straightforward manner by Dr. Hutchins. She also talked about the emotional issues that can accompany treatment, which was very helpful. It isn’t simply diagnosis, surgery, treatment, and being “finished.” I am grateful she helped prepare me for this next phase.

And, I am grateful that UAMS has someone like Dr. Stephanie Simonton-Atchley to help me navigate the emotional issues and recovery from cancer. The care from everyone at the Institute was wonderful, professional, and caring. I would recommend it to anyone who gets diagnosed with breast cancer.”