Nine months ago, Kim Weiland never would have imagined herself in the position she is in now.
"Without a doubt it's been a journey, there's no other way to describe it," she said. "I envision a road going down but I can't picture an endpoint yet."
She was diagnosed with breast cancer last September. A double mastectomy and several months of chemotherapy later, she is on the road to recovery and has been selected as the honorary chair of this year's Relay for Life in Storm Lake.
Weiland was a little shocked when she was asked to be the honorary chair for the American Cancer Society event.
"I was the one who was honored," she said. "What an opportunity to reach out to people. I was very pleased and excited about it."
Sometimes Weiland thinks it isn't far enough out from the time she was diagnosed to be considered a survivor.
"There are all these wonderful people who are survivors that have been through so much more than I have," she said.
As the honorary chair, Weiland feels she provides a face to a disease that affects many, but still carries a stigma about it. If she has one goal, it is to increase awareness - not only of the disease, but of resources available to those living with it.
"My thought was if one person recognized my name, maybe it would help that person. I'm hoping people will take the time to listen," Weiland said.
Her own situation with breast cancer is something other women may understand.
"There's something about a woman in her early 40s, diagnosed with cancer that makes others think, 'It could happen to me,'" she said.
She never fails to mention her three rules for every woman - yearly clinical exams, monthly self-breast exams starting at age 20 and annual mammograms starting at the age of 40. A self exam is how Weiland first found a suspect lump - only weeks after her yearly mammogram.
Since that fearful discovery, months have rushed by and Weiland has had so much information presented to her and has had to make so many decisions - she hasn't had time to think and reflect upon it all.
"Up until about two months ago I was robot," she said. "I was busy with all these things and all of a sudden it hit me, 'Oh, my God, what happened?' Thinking back, it's hard to believe I did all those things."
She believes circumstances work through a person's life, though "it's not always in your area of preference," she said.
"I think there has to be something good that comes from this. There has to be," she said. "I know there's a reason."
Others in her family have been affected by cancer as well. Her father died from melanoma at 47, and her sister, Janis, died at 45 from lymphoma, for which Weiland was the bone morrow donor.
"Cancer is so much a reality for me," she said. "If I can just communicate the importance of prevention and early detection, it will be worth it."
In her new path, she is also continuing a theme of her healthcare career - concern for both maternal and children's health.
"I think about the importance of family," she said, talking about her own family. "How do you tell your little 8-year-old that mommy has cancer?
Resources need to be available not just for the cancer patient, but for children and husbands and wives. "You need some way for kids to talk about it and share it," she said. "And you need something for families.
"It's not just about the patient with cancer, but it's about the entire family," she said. "I don't think you can talk about a disease process without talking about the whole family."
Just recently, Weiland has found one perfect resource in the Buena Vista County American Cancer Society office. She said it is a great asset for the area.
"They're an almost untapped wealth of knowledge," she said.
The office, at 541 Cayuga St., features information on the latest cancer research and educational information.
The Relay for Life is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, with funds staying at the local office and also going to help fund national programs and research projects.
"The Relay for Life is an event of the American Cancer Society and we are very blessed to have resources in Buena Vista County that support this event," Weiland said.
As the Relay's honorary chair, Weiland will lead the Survivors' Lap. She is also co-chairing the educational component of the Relay for Life.
"It's an exciting year for the Relay," she said. "This is the first year we'll host it over night and it is the first time people are able to decorate the luminaries."
The Relay for Life is set for Aug. 2-3 at the Storm Lake High School Track.
A healthcare worker for quite some time - whether it be working with mothers and children or most recently women at the medical center - Weiland's professional experiences never brought her into the world of cancer.
Now she is involved in several new projects at Sports Rehab, she is excited about what's to come.
"Life is good for me right now," she said. "I know I'm in the right place right now. I'm blessed to work in a place where our philosophies are so similar."