SIDNEY — Chemotherapy helped save Kathi Cable’s life. And the LiveStrong support group at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA provided her the emotional support she needed during her cancer journey.
Cable was the guest speaker during Thursday’s YMCA campaign kickoff — Vision 2020: The Vision to Serve and Strengthen Our Community.” The goal of the campaign is to raise $30,000 in two weeks.
“We all know someone affected by cancer in one way or another and if you are like me, I used to look at someone wearing a cancer cap, someone who was going through their treatment and for a brief second, feel sad for them but move about my day because, you know, cancer happens to other people. It would never happen to me, or so I thought,” Cable told those in attendance.
That all changed on March 5, 2019, when she discovered a mass on her right breast.
“I work up that Tuesday morning set out to go about my normal morning routine, taking my grandson to school, visiting my brother in the nursing home, You know, the stuff we settle into doing every single day. But on this day, after visiting my brother, I decided to run home to take a quick shower,” said Cable.
“Looking back on it now, I don’t even know why that thought came to me,” she said. “Once in the shower, I realized that I had forgotten to grab a washcloth and ended up using my bare hands. Thank God for my forgetfulness because it ended up saving my life.
“You see, whole washing that day, I ended up feeling a large mass in my right breast. In that split second, I knew, without a doubt, that I had a tumor and I knew it was cancer,” she recalled.
Cable said she immediately called her physician and the testing process began.
“What happened next was like a whirlwind of testing: a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound which led to a biopsy. My results cane in March 22.”
She learned she had invasive ductal carcinoma, triple negative breast cancer, grade 3, the most aggressive form of cancer.
An optimistic person, for the first time in her life Cable said she was in shear panic over the diagnosis. And the “What if” questions began flowing through her mind.
“How do I tell my husband? How do I tell my children? What if I lose this battle? My grandbabies are too young to remember me. What if it’s already spread? Over and over in my mind,” said Cable.
She left the doctor’s office and told her husband, told her children. And she knew there were other people who needed to be told, so she created a Facebook post to let everyone know at once. And that action also helped save her life.
An old friend reconnected with her and told her that his wife’s family was a big contributor to the James Cancer Center in Columbus. He said he’d never asked them for anything before but he was asking for help for Cable.
She received a phone call from the Stephanie Speelman Center to tell her that her cancer team had been put together and told her when her first appointment was.
“On April 2, I met with my oncologist, who ran through my treatment with me,” she said.
Because her cancer was triple negative, there were no options as far as treatment. She had to have chemo, surgery and radiation treatments.
“I begged him that day ‘Please, anything but chemo.’ But to live I had no other choice, so chemo it was,” she said.
Her port was inserted on April 5 and her chemo treatments began April 8. She was told the side effects of chemo and mentally prepared herself for them.
“I was told the only side effect that almost everyone gets is the loss of body hair. My hair? I’ve never been a vain person so losing my hair just didn’t seem like a very big deal to me, in that moment.”
She decided to cut her hair a couple inches at a time until it started falling out. A few days after her first treatment, she noticed that her hair was already falling out.
“”I knew it was time so I asked Drew (her husband) to come and help me shave the rest of it off. Tears just rolled,” she said. “I’ve never felt so exposed. I looked in the mirror … who is this person looking back at me? I don’t recognize this person. I looked at my husband knowing that from that moment on, we were different. The bond was different.
“I’ve always been the caretaker,” she said. The person there to help everyone else. Now here is this many, shaving my head, praying over me as I sleep, washing me when I’m too weak, making me eat when that was the last thing I wanted to do. Making sure I take all these medications as I fought him tooth and nail. There to hold me when I’m getting sick. Chemo, brutal.”
Cable said the chemo was brutal on her body. She got neutropenic fever after every treatment.
“My body got battered. Broken,” she said. “My bones hurt so badly sometimes I felt I would die. I got weaker and weaker with each treatment. But grateful, so very grateful. You see, chemo, those medications that I was so very scared of, ultimately saved my life.”
During her treatment she joined a support group for those with a triple negative breast cancer diagnosis. After her chemo ended, Cable saw a post about the LiveStrong program at the YMCA. With a phone call, she learned the next session wouldn’t start until September. Her surgery was scheduled for August, so she was disappointed that she probably wouldn’t be able to join the program.After her surgery, she called the YMCA again — on a whim — and learned she could join the program.
“On Sept. 8, I went to my first LiveStrong class and what I found there would ultimately change my life,” she said. “Walking into that room was like a sanctuary. A room filled with people who knew all the fears. All the pain. All the anger. All the sadness. People who understood how I felt looking into the mirror and not recognizing myself … the loss of hair, the weight gain from medications, the loss of independence and control.
“So many people will say to you on your cancer journey that they understand how you feel but honestly, only survivors truly understand. Cancer can be a lonely journey.”
Because of the LiveStrong support system, Cable is able to take seven classes a week at the YMCA. She’s planning to start training to be a personal trainer for cancer survivors.
“I do know that the encouragement, the prayers, the support I need when I’m having weak moments has been instrumental in helping me get through one of the hardest seasons of my life. Whether it was Suanne telling me to not give up, in the stern but loving way that only Suanne can do. Lynn with her hugs that you just want to melt in to. Jodi with her easy smiles, encouragement and prayers. And Sally telling us all that whatever we are feeling is OK and meaning it, as only a fellow survivor can.
“Gifts … each and every one. Laying the foundation for us all to build on.” said Cable. “The programs here at the YMCA can be so vital in making a difference in people’s lives. Whether it’s the LiveStrong program, Delay the Disease, or the many other programs offered by the YMCA, none of them would be possible without the donations from such generous, giving people. Those donations are changing lives … I am living proof. I’m so grateful for the blessing.”
Susan Shaffeer is the campaign chaiman.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.