Kelley Zimmerman is a Pink Fishing angler that agreed to share her personal experience with breast cancer and how the fishing community has rallied behind her.
In 2012, when I turned 45, I made a promise to myself that I would get my first mammogram.
They found some dense shading areas and told me not to worry that it was probably nothing. My follow up exam was scheduled for 10/28/12 and Hurricane Sandy was approaching. That morning I was contacted by the hospital and told it would need to be rescheduled as they were closing the testing areas down for the storm. My husband was persistent and they managed to squeeze me in. The density had turned into a mass the size of a pea.
The next 3 weeks were a blur of emotions and appointments. It was overwhelming. However, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel, as our plan was a lumpectomy followed by radiation and then things could get back to normal. Before the surgery, the diagnosis would change dramatically. The cancer had metastasized and there were now MULTIPLE tumors in my liver.
At 10:33 PM on 12/21/12 my home phone rang and it was the surgeon. The only words I heard were, “Your cancer is metastatic. Stage 4. Surgery is not an option. Get your affairs in order.”
Everything said after that was like Charlie Brown’s Teacher.
The days and weeks to follow emotions were raw. Everyone had an opinion or a treatment they wanted to share, but you have no desire to hear it and no ability to filter how you feel. I had my best friend and husband, David, my family, and my faith to get me through it.
There were so many questions. What do I do first? Who’s going to be there for my family? What will happen to my husband and best friend when I’m gone? It was easy to want to give up, but David wouldn’t let me. So we decided to fight and pray!
It’s been almost four years, five surgeries, countless treatments, twice in remission and I’m still here. I still have metastatic breast cancer and will be living with this disease for the rest of my life. There will be good days and bad days, but it’s not a death sentence. It’s a chronic condition that requires a lot of lifestyle adjustments. Some day they may find a cure, but for now it’s my cross and I’m choosing to bear it in style and grace.
Fishing gave me peace and solace, providing a way to connect with nature and other people who share the passion. My husband Dave, is the real competitor though.
When the diagnosis came down, my husband was working on qualifying for the Classic through the ABA Bassmaster Weekend Series. It was his dream. He had qualified for Nationals and I wanted him to go, but he refused and stayed with me instead. After learning of the full extent of the cancer and not knowing how much longer I had, I insisted that Dave work towards his dream again.
After telling our “fishing family,” about what I was facing, we were approached by Mike K about a group called Pink Fishing. They quickly embraced both of us and provided much needed comfort, support and hope.
They have been there since the early days of my fight. Listening to our story and sharing their own. They’ve provided resources and knowledge to so many people. My biggest complaint in this fight is the lack of knowledge of the disease and the fear of navigating it on our own. Pink Fishing provides a network of resources to get answers and develop a plan…. They are PRICELESS!!