Survivor says cancer was just part of her journeyKimberly Webb has survived cancer not once, not twice but three times. But that’s not what defines her life. That’s all about faith, family and friends, and that’s the story she will tell at the opening ceremonies at the 11th Hudson Relay For Life tomorrow night at Newton Field.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
Kimberly Webb has survived cancer not once, not twice but three times. But that’s not what defines her life. That’s all about faith, family and friends, and that’s the story she will tell at the opening ceremonies at the 11th Hudson Relay For Life tomorrow night at Newton Field.
Webb, 43, is a physical therapist at Hudson Hospital and has been cancer-free since 2003. But the journey getting there has been an extended one.
In 1991 when she was 24 her doctor discovered a mole on her back during a routine examination. A biopsy confirmed that it was a malignant melanoma, a very aggressive skin cancer. She had immediate surgery to remove it and went on with her life. Over the next 10 years she was busy. She returned to school and earned a degree in physical therapy from UW-La Crosse. It was March of 2001 as she dressed for her first day of work at her new PT job that she felt some pain under her arm and some swelling.
“I called Dr. (Mark) Druffner’s office and told the nurse what was wrong and that I needed to make an appointment but that I couldn’t that day because I was about to start a new job. Dr. Druffner called back within 20 minutes and told me I had to come in right away.
Now 34, Webb underwent a second surgery to remove lymph nodes from under her right arm. Doctors believed they had gotten it all but just six months later, while on a trip to the North Shore in Minnesota, Webb discovered an egg-shaped mass on her left leg. Tests revealed that she had cancer in one of the bones of her leg, in her pelvic area and, again, under her right arm.
The news was devastating to Webb and her husband, Mike, and it was difficult to take in at first. But she clearly remembers the doctor giving them the news. “He said the cancer had returned and that it was aggressive and that I was terminal. I told him so was he. We all are and we never know how long we have,” said Webb.
The doctors recommended chemotherapy but even with it, her survival chances were only about 15 percent. She wasn’t sure she wanted to spend what time she had left being sick. Around the same time as her recurrence, several other members of her family including her mother were battling cancer. Her mother chose to treat her breast cancer with holistic therapy but Webb decided to try the chemotherapy and begin it in October of 2001.
“It was the worst. I was sick, sick, sick. It was a week so ill I was in the hospital, then it was a week sick at home and then I’d get one week where I felt OK. It was very hard,” recalled Webb.
Mike recalled, “We just focused on getting through the chemo but we also knew we should enjoy whatever we had left of our life together. She wanted to go on a cruise so that’s what we did. We didn’t know how we were going to pay for it. We had just built a house and she couldn’t work. We were in a financial bad place but we knew we had to go.”
She was close to finishing her treatment when she and Mike set sail on that cruise. A social worker told them about an “early death benefit” on their life insurance policies that allows for benefits to be paid out to policyholders who are terminally ill. Doctors confirmed Webb’s prognosis and as Mike remembers, “it was like winning the lottery without buying a ticket.”
But that prognosis was wrong. In April of 2002 Webb’s doctor pronounced her cancer free. She gets a checkup annually and keeps tabs on her body just in case. But the cancer changed the Webbs’ lives. They own a hobby farm in Hammond and Webb has horses, a passion of hers from her youth. She is a physical therapist at Hudson Hospital and was nominated as an honorary Relay chair by a co-worker there.
Her message at the Relay will be about the caregivers in her life. “I want to pay tribute to them. They really are the unsung heroes in this fight. The survivors get a lot of attention but the caregivers experience it all with us and more. It taps them emotionally, physically and financially. They have to say good-bye to their dreams too. I was so fortunate with the family I have. They made all the difference,” said Webb.
She is close to her two brothers and her parents, Jim and Cheryl McGlade. She said her father, who worked at the Ford Motor plant in St. Paul, came to her hospital room every day after work during her treatments and massaged her feet and prayed. He even fasted so as to concentrate harder on praying.
Faith is a big part of Webb’s life, and the couple had just joined Faith Community Church in Hudson when her cancer recurred. “My faith was wavering a bit but something happened. I felt like I was floating on a cloud of grace and I felt peaceful.” She says the people at Faith, most strangers to them at the time, reached out and supported her and Mike with prayers, food and friendship.
“They were amazing,” said Mike.
Webb said her physical healing is a miracle, according to doctors, but her spiritual healing is just as important. “Ten years ago things looked a lot different, but we never know what lies ahead of us. Life is a road with turns and cliffs and rivers that need to be forded along the way. We just have to handle whatever comes. I’m just walking that road.”
More information about the Relay For Life appears in the attached related story link.