“God can take the ashes and bring about such good things,” said breast cancer survivor Kim Reynolds of Litchfield.
Reynolds, who works as a nurse for Dr. Phil Johnson at Litchfield Family Practice Center, was diagnosed at age 46 during a routine mammogram. Due to a family history of breast cancer with her grandma and aunt, Reynolds started getting annual mammograms at age 40.
“I was honestly just expecting things to be normal, like they always were,” Reynolds said. “But this time I got called back for additional views.”
Her husband, Steve, went back with her for the second set of pictures, and Reynolds said they kept looking at additional angles and eventually wanted an ultrasound. In her right breast, they found ductal carcinoma in one area, and another area where it was spreading out of the ducts. Her left breast had several cysts that doctors said they would have to keep an eye on.
Her next step was a stereotactic biopsy in Springfield.
“Being in the medical field, I figured that I would be able to handle it, but it was really hard,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said she and her husband talked to a doctor, who told them it would take awhile to get the results. But it didn’t. The very next day, a friend, one of the nurse practitioners at Litchfield Family Practice Center, called to tell her she had cancer.
“I was shocked. It was like running into a concrete wall,” Reynolds said. “I prayed and believed in God for healing. I know nothing is too difficult for Him. And I prayed for healing, but I knew if not, that God would be with me.”
Reynolds was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2019, and said the very hardest part was telling her then 12-year-old daughter, Maggie. But as hard as that was, Maggie would be one of her biggest supporters and helpers along the journey.
The day after Christmas, Reynolds had a double mastectomy, making the choice herself to have both her breasts removed instead of a lumpectomy.
“My breasts didn’t define me,” she said. “It was about surviving. It’s different for every woman, and everyone has to make their own decisions.”
“I tell anyone going through breast cancer that my faith in God is the biggest thing that got me through. But second to that was my family, friends and co-workers. You need a good support system. Focus on what’s important. Take care of yourself.”
Following her surgery, Reynolds had four rounds of chemotherapy at Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, MO. The chemo made her sick each treatment, and she ended up having to spend her daughter’s 13th birthday in the hospital at Barnes.
“That was tough, but we made it through,” Reynolds said. “My family threw a party for her.”
In addition to making her sick, the chemo made her lose all of her hair. And following up from the chemo, Reynolds went through radiation treatments.
“On days I would feel so sick, I would say to God, I know you will bring good out of this,” she said.
Aside from the sickness, Reynolds said one of the hardest parts of her breast cancer journey was the isolation due to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chemo treatments wiped out her immune system, and with not much information about COVID, the family stuck very close to home. Her daughter was home from school for remote learning, and her husband was able to do some of his work from home.
Reynolds said that her husband would even go to the grocery store, and bring everything into the garage to be wiped down before bringing it in their house.
“It was so early in the pandemic, no one really knew how it spread,” Reynolds said. “It was so isolating.”
While it was isolating in some ways, the journey also brought her closer to her friends and family.
“I was just blown away by such kindness of people. It’s a humbling experience to find out how much you are loved," Reynolds said.
Reynolds has since returned to her job at Litchfield Family Practice Center, and is becoming an active member of the Montgomery County Breast Cancer Support Group. She wants to help others along the way, sharing resources available, like the Montgomery County Cancer Association and Prairie State Women’s Health.
“The support is really a big help along the way,” Reynolds said. “Even if you think it doesn’t matter, send that text, write that card. You may not think it’s big, but it’s huge. I kept every card I got.”
After first being diagnosed, Reynolds encourages patients to take a notebook and folder with them to appointments, along with another person to help listen.
“If you don’t know what a word is or what a treatment means, have a doctor explain it to you,” she said.
And her husband had some advice for the spouses of patients too.
“He would say to pray and remember to breathe,” Reynolds said. “It’s one day at a time on this journey.”
Reynolds added that often looking at the big picture of cancer treatment can seem overwhelming, and that just living day-to-day really helps.
“Now that I’m a survivor, I always have that fear that it will come back,” Reynolds said. “But I can’t live my life in fear. I can’t let it control me or I’m dead already. Only God knows when we will be called home. I’m just enjoying every day. I’m here to see my daughter grow up and I’m looking forward to growing old with my husband.”
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