NEW FLORENCE —
After Kim Fuller fought off cancer in 1997, she went for follow-up checkups every year with one thought in mind: It could return one day.
Then, in February, it did. A doctor once again found a lump on her right breast.
“I thought I was prepared for something like this to happen again, but, mentally, you just can’t,” Fuller said. “It was like a slap in the face.”
But Fuller has once again fought through what she called “round 2” with cancer.
She credited faith, friends and family for making it possible.
“All you can do is stay positive,” Fuller said. “When you’re dealt a tough hand, you don’t fold.”
Her two bouts with cancer led her down different paths.
In 1997, Fuller said she went through six months of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation after a
stage 1 lump was removed from her right breast.
“I had a 10 year-old and a 5-year-old at home at the time, so it was a difficult challenge,” said Fuller, whose son, Keith, and daughter, Kayla, are now grown. “But we made it.”
Fifteen years went by with just as many follow-up checkups. The results were the same: no sign of cancer, she said.
“My doctor was very upfront. He said ‘It’s back,’ ” she said.
A small spot was found in her right breast.
“I asked him what I should do, and I decided a mastectomy was the way to go this time,” Fuller said. “This way, I wouldn’t have to worry about it coming back.”
She said she was able to delay the surgery so she and her husband, Kevin, could attend their children’s graduations and daughter’s June wedding.
“She got married and then I returned home and got the surgery the next week,” Fuller said.
The surgery, including breast reconstruction, lasted eight hours at Memorial Medical Center.
It meant six weeks of recovery, but she said the entire process was smooth.
“I don’t dwell on it,” she said. “I feel blessed that I’m OK, that I have wonderful doctors and a support system around me.”
But that is only one piece of the puzzle, Fuller said.
She advises those who learn they have breast cancer to educate themselves about the battle and recovery road they will face.
“Talk to people going through it, someone who understands,” Fuller said. “Until you’ve walked in the shoes of someone who’s had cancer, you just can’t understand.”
David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.