Kelly Edwards knows a thing or two about being a survivor.
She should, having been diagnosed with breast cancer and successfully undergoing treatment twice.
"It wasn't always easy, but with the support of my family, friends and co-workers I weathered through it," says Edwards.
She fought her first round 26 years ago after discovering a lump near her left breast. Further testing revealed the presence of cancerous tumors in both breasts.
"I was only 40 and had no family history," says Edwards, then a Dodge City wife and mother whose two children were still in college. "I thought, 'You've got to be kidding.'"
She had a lumpectomy, followed by six weeks of radiation and a year of chemotherapy.
Edwards' experience led her to go to college for the first time and complete an associate's degree in nursing.
"Seeing the nurses and how they cared for me, I knew that's what I wanted to do," says Edwards, who would later manage Cancer Center of Kansas' satellite office in Dodge City for seven years.
When her husband, Bill, retired in 2001, they moved to Wichita to be closer to their now grown children and their families.
Edwards was glad to have that family support four years later when her husband died of a heart attack and again in 2007 when she discovered a pea-sized lump in her left breast.
Her family physician, Dr. Dan McCarty, referred her to Anatomi Imaging on North Ridge Road, where she had a diagnostic mammogram and sonogram.
"Everyone was so nice," Edwards says. "I didn't even have to wait to have the second procedure. They just moved me across the hall."
When the radiologist met with her after her sonogram, he confirmed what Edwards already suspected: The cancer had come back, this time as an interductal carcinoma.
"By then," says Edwards, "I had worked in oncology long enough to know that radiation probably wasn't going to be an option and that I would have a decision to make."
She went to see Dr. David Johnson, an oncologist with whom she had worked at the Cancer Center of Kansas.
"He saw me and said, 'Are you just visiting?' I said, 'Well, no, I'm here because it looks like my cancer is back.'"
After reviewing Edwards' chart, Dr. Johnson referred her to surgeon Jacqueline Osland, MD, who performed her biopsy and double-mastectomy at Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.
While that was four years ago, it seems like a life time ago to Edwards, who volunteers two days a week in the Via Christi Flower and Gift Shop.
"I'm just so thankful to have discovered it in time so that I could be around to watch my four beautiful grandchildren grow up," she says, adding that cancer has opened more doors in her life than it has closed.
"I don't tell everyone I'm a survivor, but often people will come into the gift shop and share that they have a loved one in the hospital with cancer, and I'll let them know," Edwards says. "My still being here seems to be very encouraging to them."
Likewise, it encouraged her daughter, Ann Dodson, to switch careers. Dodson returned to college to get a second degree, this time in nursing, and now works for Cancer Center of Kansas.
Edwards' advice to others diagnosed with cancer?
"Look for the positives - positive people and positive things to read about. Keep your head in a positive mode, so when the hard things come you'll have what you need to stand up and fight."