‘You have to be an advocate for yourself’: Woman battling Breast Cancer making every moment count
HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - For a Henrico woman, the last year has brought priceless memories and the chance to live her “best bucket list life,” but it all started with a breast cancer diagnosis in September 2020.
“My family and I talk about it, I could have been hit by a car last year, but I didn’t, I got diagnosed with cancer and being diagnosed, I have had a year that is incredible with my family,” she said.
Kimberley DeMaree first noticed a rash on her breast in June 2020, she didn’t immediately go to a doctor but eventually saw her plastic surgeon, who referred her to other doctors.
“If something doesn’t feel right you have to fight for yourself. Something wasn’t feeling right with my breast and I keep putting it off,” said DeMaree . “I wasn’t tired, all the things you think people have with cancer [I didn’t have]. I have a daughter and husband, I was cooking dinner at night, I was working.”
She was eventually diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
“Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and very aggressive disease in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. This type of breast cancer is called “inflammatory” because the breast often looks swollen and red, or inflamed,” according to the National Cancer Institute. “Inflammatory breast cancer is rare, accounting for 1 to 5 percent of all breast cancers diagnosed in the United States. Most inflammatory breast cancers are invasive ductal carcinomas, which means they developed from cells that line the milk ducts of the breast and then spread beyond the ducts.”
DeMaree says it is not detected on a mammogram, and there was no noticeable lump. She is also an identical twin and she and her sister are a part of a twin study. They had recently had blood work done, and DeMaree says nothing abnormal was found at the time.
“By the time they found out it is Inflammatory Breast Cancer it’s stage three and within a couple of weeks I was stage four because it entered my lymph system and that is a highway for your body,” she said.
DeMaree has gone through chemo, a mastectomy and countless doctors visits. Doctors have called her a ‘unicorn’ because of how she is handling her symptoms and treatments. DeMaree wants anyone who may be battling breast cancer, to not be afraid to talk to their family, especially their children, about their diagnosis. She, also says it is important to listen, take action and advocate for yourself when something doesn’t feel right.
“Now that it is in my spinal fluid--that very rarely happens, it goes in the spinal fluid, now that that has happened, now they are talking timelines but they are saying they are not going to give me a timeline because they think I could surpass it,” she explained.
The wife, mom, sister, twin, aunt, daughter, friend and recently retired realtor says she is not focusing on the timelines, instead, she has decided to check locations and experiences off of her bucket list. Their community of loved ones has helped raise money for DeMaree and her family to experience the country and the world together.
“Now I am living my life and I probably should have been doing that for years before.,” she explained. “I have been to Jamaica. We went to the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. I am going to New York to see Moulin Rouge the musical because it is my favorite. We are doing Ireland in March.”
Each trip adds to the memories she continues to make, and DeMaree says all of the things they are looking forward to helping keep her mindset focused on each new day.
“We have a 16-year-old and I don’t know if I will be there for her high school graduation and I have my nephews and I don’t know if I will be there. It is important for me to go on these adventures, and do these trips,” she said. “I feel like your mind is more important than anything. You can’t let people talk to you about what is going to happen or don’t let it affect what you are going to do with the time you have left.”
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