After years of treatments since her diagnosis of lymphoma and leukemia in 2011, Weatherford resident Kathy Strickland showed she would not let the diseases keep her from enjoying a life of quality by taking part in the CIGNA Mayor’s Race 5K on Feb. 22.
Strickland, whose husband is pastor of Freedom Church in Weatherford, already had a blood condition when she began to feel out of balance late in 2011. Originally thought to be an ear infection, specialists discovered she had lymphoma.
She later found a lump on her neck, and she was also diagnosed with stage three leukemia.
“My first question was, ‘How am I supposed to feel if I have cancer?’” Strickland says.
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After surgery on her neck area, Strickland spent 2012 waiting as doctors monitored her progress. Around that time, her husband also had two strokes.
Still feeling poorly, Strickland went to a Weatherford doctor who recommended treatments which she began in November of 2012, with four treatments in four weeks followed by surgery.
At that point, Strickland attempted to return to housework and other tasks that she had not been able to do because she had been too weak. But such work left her feeling dizzy and sick, and doctors came to the realization that she was allergic to the second round of treatments she was going through.
But that first round had been enough to put her into partial remission, shown in a CT scan in June 2013. November of that same year, Strickland was able to return to her job part-time after taking almost a year off, but she was restricted in her movements so she would not strain herself.
While Strickland was growing up, her mother had also gone through cancer, and suddenly Strickland understood why her mother eventually did not want to have treatments done because of how it made her feel.
“I didn’t understand it back then because I wanted my mother to live,” Strickland says.
But now Strickland says she might have a similar opinion when it comes to any future treatment she might need if the cancer returns.
“My prayer is to have quality of life,” Strickland says. “And being sick all the time, that’s not quality of life.”
To experience that quality of life, and with encouragement from nurses and Cammie McAda – her rehab counselor from CIGNA, a global health service company – Strickland began walking to regain her strength.
She began walking in her neighborhood, counting the houses she passed to gauge her distance. At first she was only able to walk past seven houses, but over time that number increased until she walked through her whole neighborhood, passing 117 houses. Tracing that same route in their car, she found that distance to be about 2.5 miles.
Inspired by her story, Cammie also began walking for her own health and CIGNA asked if Strickland would be a representative for their organization, starting by taking part in the CIGNA Mayor’s Race 5K. She agreed and continued preparing by walking and also adding climbing the stairs at work to her regimen.
“It’s a challenge,” Strickland said of the 5K. “I love challenges. I’m the type of person that you don’t tell me I can’t do something.”
The challenge was delayed from its original date because of the ice storm that swept through North Texas. But the warm weather returned as Strickland and others took part in the event Sat., Feb. 22.
“At first, I didn’t think I’d be able to finish it,” Strickland says of the 5K.
Frequently, Cammie would ask how Strickland was doing and if she needed a break. But she refused to stop, saying she feared she might not be able to continue if she did.
But after just over an hour, Strickland completed the 5K despite blisters that began forming on her feet.
“We made it,” Strickland said. “It was an accomplishment.”
In her preparations, Strickland says she was amazed by the support she received from churches, family members she had not seen in years and others such as Cammie who encouraged her along the journey.
Her journey against cancer continues as in future months, Strickland will again be tested to see if the cancer is still in partial remission. But just as she faced the challenge of completing the 5K, Strickland and her family will continue to face this challenge as well.