There is hope in the battle

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By Heather Russell
Staff Reporter

Kitty Waddell, wife and mother of two, was diagnosed with incurable liver cancer in 2002.  Her case was so rare, that doctors in Texarkana referred her to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, where even doctors there had only ever treated a few cases like hers.  By 2008, Waddell had undergone two different liver surgeries and doctors were confident they had the growth of her cancer under control, when a regular mammogram showed three abnormalities in one of her breasts.  Just hours later, an ultrasound and biopsies confirmed that Kitty had breast cancer.

Kitty had no family history of breast cancer - no family history of any kind of cancer, for that matter - and her breast cancer diagnosis so soon after two life-altering liver surgeries was daunting, to say the least.  “I thought, ‘Here we go again.  This isn’t fair.  This isn’t right.  Why me?” recalls Waddell.  And with her third cancer-related surgery pending, Kitty says she went out on her deck in the peace and quiet and prayed, “What do I do? Do I just let cancer take me?”  It was then Kitty says she heard, in that quiet moment, a still voice.  “I heard it as clear as if the Lord were standing right there,” said Kitty.  “He said, ‘Go see your minister.’”

Gary Bagly had only been the minister at Tapp Memorial United Methodist Church (where Kitty is a member) for a few weeks, but Kitty made an appointment to see him, and says his faith and encouragement made all the difference in the world in her attitude toward her upcoming battle.  “He was literally a God-send,” she says.  “He was given all the words to say to bring me peace, comfort and encouragement.”

Kitty underwent a mastectomy and had 28 lymph nodes removed, four of which were found to be malignant.  The surgery went well, and after six months of chemotherapy and two rounds of radiation, Kitty was declared breast cancer free.  She still suffers from lymphodema, from the removal of so many lymph nodes, and most likely always will.  However, she says the pain and discomfort are bearable, and she continues to remain positive.  “I still have little pity parties,” Kitty says.  “But I give myself a certain amount of time before I say ‘Okay, enough.’  And I take a deep breath and get on with things.  That attitude makes a difference.”

Her liver cancer is incurable, but her liver tumors have stopped growing, and may be starting to shrink slightly.  In an ironic twist of fate, doctors say this could be a result of the chemo cocktail used to treat her breast cancer. 

These days, Kitty simply enjoys life.  She is active in her church, and spends as much time as she can with her children and grandchildren.  She occasionally attends a local Relay for Life, where she says hearing the survivors names and the years since their diagnoses always give her hope.  And hope is what she wants to pass on to those currently battling cancer.  “There is hope,” she advises.  If I can make it through it, you can too.  Fight your way out of this.”

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