Oklahoma Running Mom

Running in Oklahoma adds new meaning to the phrase "Hot Mama."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kelly's Angels

I was truly inspired by Kelly and her support system at the Race for the Cure on Saturday. After reading her story, I'm even more inspired. Please take the time to read it and I'm sure you'll feel the same way.
I’d like to begin by stating cancer is not something I’d wish on my worst enemy if I had one. It is a mean, ugly disease that can tear your body and world apart if you allow it to. My journey with cancer began April 2007 when my husband felt a lump in my breast. It wasn’t very big, I couldn’t even feel it...In his concern, my husband John asked that I get it checked out immediately. After several daily reminders, I finally called our family doctor, Douglas Holte....
After the examination, he confirmed a lump and scheduled me for a mammogram. I was 40 years of age and had planned to have this procedure done on my own. As I sat in the screening office with my husband, I tried not to be nervous or thing the worse. I spent a great deal of my time praying and telling myself this was just a routine thing; they would find nothing. I was wrong. The mammogram was followed up with a biopsy and then the fatal blow was given. It is indeed cancer in your left breast. My heart dropped and I felt numb. Appointments were made for me to meet with the surgeon who would do my lumpectomy, a plastic surgeon who would do the reconstruction and oncologist who would conduct my chemo treatments. I was also to have thirty-three rounds of radiation. The drive home was silent; I didn’t really want to talk about it. I couldn’t even pray. “Cancer? Wow! Really, cancer?”
When my husband and I got home, I lay across the bed and did the first thing I felt…I cried. I asked the Lord, “why is this happening to me?” He had all the answers and I need some; but none came immediately. I needed some time to calm down so that I could fully listen. In the meantime, my husband and I began slowly telling family and friends. We had just begun attending a small church and this “issue” of mine seemed too big for them. I was wrong again. This small church embraced us and began urgently praying for us. A week before my lumpectomy, the ladies and my girlfriends threw me a surprise support party. It was wonderful especially since I was feeling very scared and alone. They prayed over me, we sang songs of praise, and they filled our freezer with meals for after the surgery. This would come in handy for a family of ten people (I guess this is a good time to mention that my husband and I have seven sons and one daughter). I was ready for anything after that.
My support group grew to our former church. A friend from there, Mary Ann Cary, organized meals for us after each treatment (which was every three weeks for eight treatments). What a blessing those meals were to me. I also had several sweet friends, besides my hubby, who accompanied me to each treatment and saw to all my needs. There were people God appointed to pray for me around the clock – I know this because this is what I’ve been told and I believe every word. When my hair fell out, we had a “hat” day at church so that I wouldn’t feel so awkward when I had to begin wearing hats and scarves to church. The support I personally received was overwhelming and more than even I expected.
Our oldest son, Jaron was in the army serving in Iraq at the time. He would call home and my job was to assure him that I was doing well at all times. When my hair fell out, he asked me to email him pictures. I did so with a huge smile on my face (the shock had worn off by then). He was constantly making me promise to send for him if anything went remotely wrong. I promised him that we would, but that he needn’t worry. What I was going through was nothing compared to what he was being exposed to day and night, and I told him so. My life was not in danger as far as I was concerned, but his was.
Two days after my second chemotherapy treatment, was a day I will never forget. I had just come out of the bathroom after vomiting for the last time that day from the effects of the chemo. My husband came to the room just as I was leaving our bathroom to tell me that I needed to come sit down in the family room, there was something I needed to hear. I immediately thought the children had driven him over the edge and we were about to have a family meeting. However, when I entered the room and sat down, two uniformed army personnel officers walked into my home. I needed no explanation as to what this meant; my son was gone. I was no longer thinking of cancer at this time, my focus was totally on my son and my great loss.
My doctors were very concerned for me during this time. I was asked to make daily trips into the lab to have blood drawn to make sure my counts weren’t getting too low, thus causing infection. I, on the other hand, was not concerned. God was carrying me through this period of my life and protecting me from all things. I planned our son’s funeral and stayed as healthy as a person with cancer could be. I was obedient and took my meds the way I was instructed. It was the single most devastating thing that could happen, but something completely out of my control. I didn’t ask for cancer, nor did I request my son’s death. That was God’s will and although I don’t like it; it is well with my soul. Our son Jaron was a believer in Christ. He left a letter to his father (that I was privy to after the funeral) that was only to be given to me in the event of his death. He wanted us to know that he was in heaven with Jesus and that he was happy and free from pain, grief and fear. All I could say from that is “I’m so jealous”. My family and friends continued to support our family through first my cancer and then our son’s death.
I was at the Cancer Center when I first got wind of the Susan B. Komen Race for the cure. All the nurses were walking around with these cool shirts on advertising the race and their team. When I asked about it, I was given a race form. I took it home and registered my team online. Then name came to me easily since I often called those praying for me “my angels”; thus “Kelly’s Angels” was born. After sharing my team info via email, family and friends began making donations and signing up to walk in droves. I met and exceeded my donation goal quickly and had a team of 20+ supporters walking with me. I designed a team t-shirt and gave them as gifts to those walking with me and those who made donations to my walk.
The experience was thrilling. Even though I had lost my mother-in-law and an Aunt to breast cancer, I probably never would have walked had it not happened to me. Being in the midst of all those ladies who were and are just like me was intoxicating. I was not brave enough to leave my home without a scarf or hat on, but I saw women who proudly walked among us with their bald heads gleaming in the sunshine. I smiled and wished I were that brave. These women were an inspiration to me.
If I had any advice to share with someone embarking on their own journey, I would say:
Pray about the best course of treatment for you.
Include your spouse in the process from beginning to end.
Don’t be afraid to share your fears with others and ask them to pray for and with you.
Keep people updated on your progress. This will help them know how to pray specifically for your needs.
Take care of yourself and follow the advice of your doctors.
Reflect and eliminate all stress and bitterness from your life.
Move forward in a positive direction. For me that was strengthening my relationship to the Lord.
Realize what’s important to you. God, family, friends, etc.
In closing, breast cancer was the best thing that happened to me. I know that sounds strange and I don’t want to repeat it for all the riches I can gain; but I learned so much from the experience. When you’re put in the middle of a crisis, you immediately discover what you’re made of. You either crumble to the ground or you stand firm come what may. I chose to stand firm. Yes, even after my son’s death (I’m still grieving and will for a while yet).
But I didn’t stand alone. I had many pillars surrounding me through prayer and encouragement...this is why I walk, why I encourage others to walk and why I’m so grateful for this opportunity to share my story. My prayer is that it touches someone’s life that is beginning the same journey I finished eighteen months ago and inspires them to stand firm. Don’t let mean, ugly cancer tear your body and world apart; turn and face it, but not alone. Take God and as many who will stand with you along for the journey. I guarantee, it will make it easier to bare.
Thank you,
Kelly Holliday
Cancer Survivor since 04/07


Anonymous said...

When I first meet Kelly she was new to our church and I just thought of her as the woman with a whole bunch of KIDS!! But soon I began to notice how infectious her smile was. She would always come up to us and get a huge hug no matter what. Then Kelly shared with us she was diagnosed with breast cancer by then we had developed a friendship and I will have to admit I was scared of losing her. I had lost my mother and best friend at 18 and I didn’t even want to think about losing someone I loved again. From the moment she was diagnosed she went into warrior mode and laid all her fear and trust onto God which was such a spiritual inspiration. During treatment she lost her oldest son, Jaron, in Iraq and she still leaned on her faith when others would have faltered. This year and last year both I served as co-captain of our Kelly’s Angels team and I do it because I love and admire Kelly. I truly thank God for putting such a wonderful woman in my life who I can call not only a friend but also family!!! I LOVE YOU KELLY!!!

Tyesha Johnson

Stephanie said...

What an amazing, inspiring story! Thank you, Kelly, for sharing and thank you, Running Mom, for posting it. There is a young mother in my church who is going through this right now. You have given me inspiration to be a better support to her. Bless you both.

Terri said...

Wow, what an amazing story and what a praise to God for His great grace that brought the Holliday family through. Interestingly I heard of Kelly through a home school friend who asked our church to pray after the death of their son Jaron. I did not know many of the details shared in this story and it touches me to know more about who I was praying for. What I find so wonderful is how God takes complete strangers and brings their hearts together through prayer. Thank you Oklahoma Running Mom for posting this heart felt story and inspiring us all to press on in the race set before us.