They laugh, they love, they cry. And they talk a lot about God.
Four Killeen women share two commonalities: breast cancer and their faith in God. All four attend the same church and relied on their faith during their battle. Dressed in pink ribbon attire to commemorate breast cancer awareness month, the four women promote a common message: Early detection is the key to survival.
Kathy Gilmore was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006 when it was discovered through an annual mammogram during the Christmas holidays. The doctor could not feel the small lump, but the mammogram detected it.
“I didn’t tell any of my kids until Christmas night when all of the festivities were over. I did not want to ruin Christmas for them,” Gilmore said. “I reminded myself through the journey that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
A needle biopsy returned a negative result. But the laboratory technician was not satisfied and recommended a surgical biopsy. The tumor was malignant. Ultimately, Gilmore endured a double mastectomy, enduring six surgeries in two years.
Nine years later, it’s still an emotional subject for her. “A woman losing her breasts is a very hard thing,” Gilmore said. “I wouldn’t still be here if God didn’t have a plan for me. I keep praying and am still trying to do good things for God.”
Shelley Wells believes her life was spared thanks to early detection. Her physician questioned the negative results of a needle biopsy and recommend a lumpectomy. Thirty-five radiation treatments later, the cancerous tumor was contained.
Wells said cancer changed her perspective on life and strengthened her faith in God.
“Cancer is the scariest word in the English language. But I was always at peace,” Wells said. “I always have had a deep faith and never been afraid of dying. As I lie in that hospital room, I could feel everyone praying for me. When I cried out to God, he gave me peace.”
Jean Gautier describes herself as a spiritual person and believes God saved her life. The doctor could not feel the cancerous lump in her breast because of its location. But the digital mammogram detected the tubular carcinoma.
“The minute I heard my diagnosis, I lifted myself up to the Lord and asked for peace. I called my family and we prayed,” Gautier said. “But I was never really scared and never even really cried. I knew that I was in God’s hands.”
Doctors described Gautier’s cancer as slow moving and slow growing. She participated in three hospital research studies while going through cancer treatment, which included four chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments and a partial mastectomy because the tumor was too large for a lumpectomy.
“Someone went before me so that the doctors could learn and save my life. I wanted to take my time to participate in the studies to help someone else,” Gautier said. “Today, I am healthy as a horse and am playing pickle ball.”
For Teresa Young, the battle continues. Diagnosed with breast cancer twice, she continues treatment but understands her time is limited. She has already planned her funeral, picked out her own flowers and selected her pallbearers.
“The Lord lays on me things I need to do,” Young said. “Get things right with people around me. Tell them how much I love them and what they mean to me. I am blessed. I do things cheerfully.”
Young will know in November if the current chemo treatment has any effect on the cancer, which has spread to her brain and spine.
“I don’t know if I am going to live two years or five years. But, I am going to make the most of it,” she said. “I do know that I am going to heaven. (God) has assured me of that. He has shown me pieces of heaven in my dreams three times. I know that I am saved. I have been given a gift from God to settle my affairs.”
For now, the women soak in every moment of their friendship and cherish their remaining time together.
“We find solace in knowing we will all be together again one day in heaven,” Wells said.