In disbelief, Kay Porter, 43, looked at the doctor as though he had made a mistake.
Kay learned she had breast cancer on May 3, 1994. Thoughts raced through her mind as she tried to gather signals that could have prepared her for this announcement. Kay learned that approximately 80 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer don't have any risk factors associated with the disease.
Only two members of her family had had breast cancer, an aunt and a sister-in-law, but both were related by marriage.
Her only conclusion - she had the two most unavoidable risk factors for breast cancer - "I am a woman and I was getting older."
Kay now faced the challenge of dealing with the cancer without a spouse or children to provide her comfort, and her parents resided in Amarillo.
Since her physician had uttered the words, "Kay, you have breast cancer," she wondered what she could have done to prevent this.
She realized the answer was nothing. It just happened. A visit with her parents proved to be as encouraging and positive as she had expected. She also ran into an old friend, Paula, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in January. Knowing what Kay was facing in the weeks to come, Paula encouraged her to be strong.
Kay decided to undergo a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery to rid herself of the cancer. Her doctors agreed, adding that she would be more pleased with the results because the alternative - chemotherapy and radiation - would significantly reduce her medium-sized breasts. They scheduled her procedure for May 26.
After seven hours of surgery to remove the cancer, Kay emerged cancer-free.
Paula stayed with Kay the week following her surgery, and although Paula is very private about her battle with breast cancer, she was open with Kay and answered her questions and cheered her spirits.
Kay, now a five-year-survivor, views her battle as a blessing. Her life came to a halt, and she discovered what is truly important - her family and life itself.
Kay took a vacation with her niece and nephew to Hawaii the summer following her surgery. Their next adventure took them to the seas off the Texas coast to experience the waves and deep-sea fishing.
Since being cancer-free, Kay volunteers her time Susan G. Komen for the Cure, organizing informational events as the co-vice president of the Dallas County Chapter.
Kay says she faced the problem head on and won, but she stresses to women that it is so important to be aware of changes in your body, to have annual exams and begin mammograms by age 40. Young women should ask their physicians to instruct them on the correct way to perform self-exams so they can detect any changes early.
With a sense of humor and realization that breast cancer is not a death sentence, Kay lives her life to the fullest.
"I realized that you never know how long you will be here, so I decided to make the most of my time."
Contributed by Devon Holmes
Coleen Kirnan Friedmann