Mother of five fights through cancer; will lead BVRMC's cancer awareness event
Kelly Pitts looks at life much differently today. The Cherokee mother of five is on her last round of treatment at the oncology department at the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center after being diagnosed with breast cancer. It has been a long, hard six months but the support of her family and friends have gotten her through the turmoil that cancer creates.
"I keep going and keep a positive attitude. I feel so lucky - lucky that I found it early and started treatment."
Kelly will be one of the honorary starters of the BVRMC walk/run set for Oct. 11. The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about breast cancer and all cancers and to raise money to assist women with cancer in purchasing wigs, prosthesis and other personal cancer recovery items.
Kelly discovered a lump during a self exam and immediately made an appointment at Dakota Dunes in Sioux City. a plce she had always heard many good things about when it come to taking care of health needs, for a mammogram. Much to her surprise, the lump was not picked up on the mammogram picture. But she knew it was there and wasn't about to let the results be the end of it. She requested an ultra sound; the results proved her own findings.
A week later she returned for a biopsy. Within an hour of the procedure, it was determined the lump was malignant.
"When you hear the word cancer, there are no good thoughts," Kelly's husband Mike said.
"The first thing I thought of was my five kids," Kelly said. Naturally.
Telling the kids, ages 4-17, was the most "horrible" thing Kelly and Mike have had to do.
The family had been planning a trip to the Grand Canyon the next week. It had been in the planning stages for months and was being looked forward to by everyone as a way to celebrate spring break. The airline tickets were already paid for. They talked it over as a family and no one wanted to go ahead with the trip. In talking with her oncologist, he convinced her and Mike that the trip should be taken and assured them that the delay would not have any effect on the cancer.
So, the family went and it was one of the best vacations they have had.
Only a few days after returning, Kelly went back to Dakota Dunes where a lumpectomy was performed. After further study, it was decided that a mastectomy should be performed to make sure the effected area was removed.
Ten days later, Kelly was back teaching her second grade students at Roosevelt Elementary.
Again, she had to explain to children what she was going through. When treatments started soon after, she took the opportunity to talk to the students about the importance of washing their hands, a means of killing germs and keeping everyone in the classroom healthy.
Because her immune system was destroyed by the first and heavy duty round of chemo, she had to give up the last 22 days of school. Granted the students were doing their best to keep their teacher healthy, but the confined area of the classroom just wasn't the place she should be. She certainly didn't need any bugs while her immunity system was down.
It broke her heart.
After two weeks of treatments, nearly to the day, Kelly lost her hair. It was Mother's Day, she remembers. Devastated, her good friend provided her with a wig from her beauty salon the moment she told her of the news.
Not only were Kelly's kids aware of the hair loss, but so were son Andy's classmates. The then sixth graders, many of whom had Mrs. Pitts as their second grade teacher, came up with a way to support her - they would shave their heads, too, and ask for donations to do so. Some 20 kids participated in the head-shavings, hopefully with their parent's permission.
"I was mad at first," she commented, but after thinking about it, she realized it was their way of supporting her. The group of boys stopped by at the house and handed her $300 - enough for her to pay for a wig.
"They gave their hair for her hair," Mike pointed out.
A scrapbooker, mom of one of the boys made several scrapbook pages for her with pictures of the boys and their shiny heads.
"That was really sweet."
Another fundraiser on her behalf was organized by the teachers at her school. T-shirts were designed and sold, netting $2,600. Kelly turned the dollars over the Susan G. Komen Foundation so others cancer victims in the area, short on funds, can benefit.
Kelly thinks a great deal of the BVRMC oncology department. She recalls the first day of treatment she was nervous and scared. Nurses pulled her aside and shared hugs with her. She has become acquainted with many of the people going through treatments; every one is a support system.
You would never guess, unless you saw it for yourself, she said, how relaxed everyone is; each with his or her own recliner and an IV bottle dripping the medications. "We laugh and giggle and tell stories," she said. "It's way different than what I would have imagined it to be."
When Kelly completes her treatment Oct. 6 (she's got the count down going, now) she will go through a round of radiation - each weekday for five-seven weeks, in Sioux City. The treatment has been hardcore because Kelly is under 40 and because the cancer was found in two of her lymph nodes.
She shared some statistics: one in eight women gets breast cancer; 1 in 200,000 of those women are under 40.
She was fortunate to be able to continue with her kids' activities this summer (some nights there were seven baseball games) and she returned to teaching this fall.
But life is appreciated more.
"The little things that bug us become smaller. I pray I will get to see my kids raised. I have learned to appreciate everything in life."
BVRMC 5k walk/run
Register to take part in the BVRMC 5k walk/run by Oct. 1 and receive a long sleeve t-shirt. All entrants will receive a goodie bag. there will be drawings for:
* one free full-field digital mammogram
* one free bone density test
* one free body mass index test
* one free six-month membership to the fitness and Health Center
Registration fee is $20; money raised will go to assist women with cancer in purchasing wigs, prosthesis and other personal cancer recovery items.
Go to BVRMC's website to register - bvrmc.org or by calling 1-866-618-3371. there will be no registration on the day of the event.