By Kellie Scott, Guest columnist
Many of you whom I have met in recent months know that I am a cancer survivor and it’s part of the reason that I work for American Cancer Society Relay For Life. You may not, however, know my story. In a season filled with good cheer and holiday spirit, I have one more reason to celebrate. I celebrate life. As the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th birthday in 2013, I, along with many others, will celebrate another birthday, too.
In September of 2002, I was busy being a wife, an Awana teacher, a member of the choir and a mother to a 7-year-old softball player and 7-month-old son. I had a place appear suddenly on my leg that we all thought was just a mole. While I waited for my dermatologist appointment in October, my well-meaning friends suggested a vast assortment of over-the-counter remedies. I was never really concerned. Cancer wasn’t something I even considered.
I went to my dermatologist in October and he seemed equally unconcerned. He took what he could from the area, stitched it up and sent me on my way. I’d return in two weeks to have the stitches removed. He’d send the sample off to be biopsied, just to be safe. There was nothing to be worried about.
I returned in November to have my stitches removed, oblivious to anything other than the holiday spirit. It’s my favorite time of year, you see. People are enjoying themselves, hustling and bustling. Families are celebrating. Life is good. I always put my tree up first and my friends and children tease me. I don’t mind, I love this time of year. I waited in the room for my doctor; happily thinking about how this would be my son’s first Christmas. In a moment, that all changed. The doctor came in, his first words forever embedded in my memory, “I’m so sorry, Kellie. It’s cancer.” The nurse hugged me. Stunned, I walked to my car. How will I tell my husband? My kids? I sat in my car and cried.
I spent the holidays in a daze. I searched the Internet for answers. As I waited for my surgery at Emory in January, I prayed that the cancer had not metastasized. If caught early, I can be OK. It has to be OK. I have a 7-year-old and a 7-month-old who need me. Who will take care of them? Who will teach my classes at church and who will take care of my husband? How will he do this alone? All these questions tore at me as we waited and hoped.
In mid-January of 2003, my husband and I went to Emory. I spent six hours in surgery as they removed the tumor that had grown inward into my leg. They had to do a skin graft to cover the area that was removed. I went home on crutches. It would be several months before I could walk without support. They also took a sentinel node biopsy, to determine if the cancer had spread. We waited nearly two weeks to find out what would be next, and we hoped and prayed there was nothing more.
On Jan. 21, 2003, three short weeks shy of my son’s first birthday, I got the call. All I heard of the entire conversation was, “We got it in time.” I was going to be OK. I was going to have more Christmas’ and more birthdays. I would be here to celebrate not only mine, but my children’s birthdays as well. It doesn’t get any better than that.
We are in the midst of celebrating a season of giving, of hope and of new beginnings. Let’s celebrate our survivors, remember those who lost their battles, and please, come join us as we fight back in 2013. Help us create a world with more birthdays.
Kellie Scott is Community Manager for Relay For Life. She can be reached at email@example.com