Editor’s note: We apologize for not having a photo of Kim to accompany this article as we did for the other survivors in our breast cancer special section. She was lovely in a pair of slacks, bright pink blouse and matching pink lipstick at the interview. For some reason, the office camera’s brand-new memory card glitched, and her images weren’t captured in a usable format. We’re disappointed not to be able to present her smiling face with the story, but we had to mind our deadlines anyway.
Kim Griffin knows about journeys of all kinds. She’s worked for Travel Leaders as a travel consultant for 29 years, putting people on trains, planes, automobiles and cruise ships, helping them to see the world and then return home with smiles and good memories.
She has been on a different kind of journey herself this year, but she hopes for an equally happy outcome. Griffin faced a cancer diagnosis and all the changes that brought to her life.
Two months after getting positive results at a health checkup, she was doing a routine breast self-exam and discovered a big lump in her left breast. She returned on Feb. 24 to her doctor, who sent her to the West Clinic immediately.
There was cause for concern. Griffin’s diagnosis was Stage 3 breast cancer.
It was a real shock, she said. Her family has seen its share of cancer. Her maternal grandmother died of breast cancer, and her mother died of brain cancer. So worst-case scenarios did spring to mind. She had some moments where she broke down as anyone would do, but her experience at the West Clinic took away much of her worry, she said.
“The West Clinic was fabulous, amazing from start to finish,” she said. “Their professionalism, they encourage everyone there, it was just unbelievable. They were just wonderful. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
She also reflected on how lucky she was to catch her cancer before it worsened and the sympathy she felt for her fellow cancer patients.
“I think about the people that were there that were so much worse off than I was. It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. I mean, people were fighting, and gosh, it was nothing for me. I thought, ‘They need to be taking care of these other people rather than taking care of me.’ There were some really sick people there.”
She had two surgeries—a partial mastectomy on March 16 and further surgery on March 23—followed by two months of radiation. She will continue taking a pill daily for five years and have checkups every three months.
The radiation left her with lingering exhaustion, which was difficult for someone who’s used to working 12-13 hours. She appreciates how supportive her employer has been when she tires. But she is recovering her strength, and she likes to work and not think about her health. At home, she has her computer so she can go right on working at night or on the weekends if she feels like it, setting up destination weddings, cruises and trips for her customers to popular locations like the Caribbean and Mexico.
Her three daughters have also been among her greatest supporters, too. Her middle daughter, who had just finished college, came home for most of March and April to care for her.
Griffin said she also relied on the power of prayer and positivity.
“You have to have a positive outlook in life,” Griffin said. “You have to learn to take care of yourself. I just had a good strong faith and backing with my family and friends here (at work). I mean, they prayed every day for me.”
It’s been a difficult year with other challenges, including grieving the death of her father in December. But she wants other cancer patients to know that they can survive their crises just as she did.
“You have to believe that it’s in God’s hands. He’ll take care of you,” she said. “You just have to believe that you’re going to beat it. You just have to be positive. You have to believe and have faith.”
Today, she’s all about taking care of herself with taking vitamins, working out, eating healthier foods and making other smart choices.
Griffin also wants to emphasize preventive care for all women. What would have happened if she hadn’t done that self exam?
“You HAVE to do those exams, whether you want to or not,” she said. “You never know. If you feel any type of lump, have it checked out. Don’t let it go. You Can’t let it go. You have to get in there and see. Even if it’s nothing. Get those checkups when you’re supposed to get them. Do those self-exams when you’re supposed to do them. You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to email@example.com.