We are honored to introduce Kimani Haley as this week’s Feature Friday. Read about her personal journey and her determination to not only live, but to live happily. Thank you, Kimani, for sharing your story and advice. You inspire us!
When did you get diagnosed with breast cancer?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2016. I was 37-years old with a 9-year-old son and a one-year old daughter. After one of my periods, I noticed that one of my breasts was still tender. I could’ve easily ignored it because it wasn’t that noticeable. Being a hypochondriac, I made an appointment with my PCP, and she felt a small lump, which I never felt. All I could feel was the slight soreness. She sent me to have a mammogram immediately. (I must insert here that my mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer and my stepfather had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer.) After the mammogram and other tests, it was determined that the lump, felt by the doctor, was just a cyst, BUT they saw cancer elsewhere in my breast. THANK GOD FOR THE CYST because I would not have known about the cancer had the cyst not alerted us to the breast.
With what type of breast cancer were you diagnosed and what was your treatment?
I’m pretty sure it was HER2 positive, fueled by estrogen. I began chemotherapy (Herceptin, Carboplatin, Prejeta and Taxotere) in July of 2016 and finished the harsh chemotherapy at the end of October. I continued with the Herceptin for a full year. After the harsh chemo, I had a right breast mastectomy in December of 2016. I began radiation in January of 2017 and finished in March. I completed biotherapy in August. I had a DIEP flap procedure on the left side on December 11, 2017. I also chose to have my right breast removed for my peace of mind and because of some abnormal cells that were there. I had a tissue expander placed on my right side, but then it became infected. I had it removed on December 30, 2017. I was devastated. Now, I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I am not happy with the physical/aesthetic outcome at all. I am happy to be alive though, and that’s more important than any breast.
Who inspires you today and inspired you not to give up hope when you were fighting cancer?
My children inspire me to fight to live. I cannot imagine their little lives without me. I need to be here to pour into their lives. Other survivors and survivors’ stories inspired me to fight and be happy. Dian Kiah, from my church, told me that my state of mind would be what would get me through this thing. I CHOSE to be happy because I was ALIVE, which was I wanted the most.
What advice or encouragement do you have for someone still going through treatment or has a loved one going through it?
Do not rush the process and own this experience. There is something to be learned in every trial and tribulation. I wish I would have waited to have the right breast reconstructed. I wish I would have taken more ownership over my process and made some of the decisions (that I allowed my doctors to make for me instead). I wish I would have researched other doctors. I wish I would have spoken to more survivors whom I did not know. Just this year, I have been reaching out to other breast cancer survivors on social media, whom I do not know. I have learned so much from these strangers from strange places. They are so much more knowledgeable than me regarding dieting, physical and mental health, reconstruction options, etc.