In life, there are people who wage war on the world, while others wage war on themselves. Among all the trivial conflict, there are those who get recruited as valiant warriors against the most aggressive fight known to mankind: cancer.
Suddenly, all the other self-inflicted battles become obsolete in the face of this disease. Life as one knows it fades into a simmered flame on the backburner of cancer’s agenda. And, because it is powerful enough to infiltrate any part of the human design, no one is immune from its wrath.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the No. 2 leading cause of death in the United States. Among the top 10 most common cancers in adults is breast cancer. Nearly 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed within their lifetime. With such staggering statistics, it is imperative to recognize and honor the many women who have lost their lives to this fight. But with a shred of hope in our pockets, Discovering Bulloch celebrates the brave survivors who never let the flame of life burn out, even while defeating that Goliath of a diagnosis.
Statesboro native Sandy Kennedy is no stranger to the drawn-out battles with this disease. After receiving her Stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis on April 29, 2016, Kennedy’s life changed in an instant.
“The morning I got my diagnosis, I was in a hurry to find out what I needed to do next to get rid of it,” she said.
Kennedy was referred to a breast cancer surgeon and began extensive testing to see where the cancer had spread. It was only in the left breast, so Kennedy’s treatment plan included a mastectomy of that breast. A month after her surgery in June 2016, she began a six-month long chemotherapy treatment, followed by radiation for six weeks. The worst part of the experience for Kennedy? Chemotherapy.
To keep herself distracted from the nausea and fatigue, Kennedy did a lot of reading.
“I read a lot on other people’s journey, how cancer affected them and how they got through it. It kind of gave me an idea of what I had to look forward to,” she said.
With this new direction in her path, Kennedy’s perspective began to evolve. Kennedy explained that her battle with cancer has impacted her life in many ways.
“I used to be a big planner. Now, not so much. I don’t think so long and hard about things anymore,” she said. “These days, I take more time to enjoy what I do have instead of rushing through the moment.”
Kennedy emphasized that when you get cancer, it isn’t just you being diagnosed. Friends and family feel the weight of the impact, too. Luckily for Kennedy, her support system didn’t falter for a second during her journey.
“You don’t realize how much people care about you until the worst time of your life happens,” she explained.
As a member of First Baptist Church, Kennedy felt more connected to her church family than ever before.
“Even without asking, my church was there for me. I realized that sometimes you have to let people do what they want to do to show their love. It can be a blessing on both ends,” she said.
Kennedy’s testimony revealed that while her cancer was dying, the love in her life was growing more than ever.
“I think one of the biggest things in this journey is just realizing how important the people in your circle are,” she said. “For example, my husband kisses me goodbye every morning before he goes to work. He never did that before my diagnosis, but cancer has a funny way of making the little things in life a whole lot more sentimental.”
Certainly, this new outlook helped to carry Kennedy through the trenches of her diagnosis and treatments. In April of 2017, exactly one year after her original diagnosis, Kennedy found out that she was cancer-free. Although she is finishing up the reconstruction process, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel for this chapter in Kennedy’s life. She is now equipped with wise advice for those who may experience the same fate:
“Don’t panic. It’s not the death sentence it used to be. The journey depends a lot on your attitude, I think. You just have to stick it out even though it’s not easy,” she said. “You have to find a way to live your life as normal as possible. Don’t rush to conclusions and let it get bigger in your head than what it is on the surface. That’s the only way to get through it — by taking it one thing at a time.”