Nearly four years ago, second grade elementary school teacher Kimberly Richardson received the worst news of her life.
“It was as if the world had stopped moving for a moment,” she says, describing how she could not comprehend her diagnosis with stage III invasive ductal carcinoma, a form of breast cancer.
“The doctor began to sound like one of the characters from a Charlie Brown cartoon,” she says. She just couldn’t comprehend what she had been told. But it was terrifying.
Like many, she was already being pulled in many directions at once. She was taking care of her aging parents. Her daughter was in college. She wanted to be there for them all.
Once she had a chance to digest the diagnosis, she began to weigh her options. Both her oncologist and breast surgeon highly recommended that she participate in a clinical trial. She enrolled in an 18-week course of treatment that that caused her significant pain and nausea. She did it for her family. But she also did it, in part, because the data she provided would help doctors learn more about treating breast cancer in African-American women like her.
“I must admit, I was a little hesitant, but after much prayer, I made the decision to be a part of this experience,” Richardson says. “One of the main reasons I participated was because there just weren’t enough African-American women involved in the studies for research. I thought I would go ahead and do it if it would help another woman down the line.”
The medicine used in the clinical trial reduced the size of her tumor by 85 percent. She went on to undergo chemotherapy, 35 rounds of radiation and surgery.
Richardson, who is strong in her faith, prayed for her complete recovery and promised God she would give back to help other women who are going through breast cancer if she survived.
Today, she is cancer-free and is making good on that promise to help others. She is now part of a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enlighten, empower, encourage and educate the community about breast health awareness, while equipping those fighting the disease with a sense of control and the motivation needed to maintain their quality of life. She is a proud board member of Angels Surviving Cancer, Inc. Their mission is to addresses the entire spectrum of a survivor’s needs through advocacy and financial, emotional and spiritual support. “I have always loved giving back to and working with the community,” she says. “For me, it was important when I was going through treatment to be able to connect and talk to someone who was going through it.”
Richardson’s breast surgeon, Dr. Kelly Dempsey, calls her inspiring. “Her positive attitude despite all the obstacles has helped her to have a joyful and fulfilling life post-cancer.”
Richardson notes that it’s not only women who need to know about breast cancer. Part of her mission now is also to raise awareness about male breast cancer.
She also recognizes the positive change within herself that came from her cancer journey. She is more thankful than ever. “It just made me grateful for each day,” she says. “The things other people worry about, now I just kind of let that roll off my back.”
That is a life lesson she hopes will resonate with others as well, especially anyone fighting cancer.