Nalleys: Early detection works
by Colleen Surridge
Oct 10, 2011 | 2288 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kari and Steve Nalley had their drive way adorned with a pink ribbon and the words Fighting 4 A Cure. Mrs. Nalley is a breast cancer survivor.

Read more: The Parsons Sun - Nalleys Early detection works
Kari and Steve Nalley had their drive way adorned with a pink ribbon and the words Fighting 4 A Cure. Mrs. Nalley is a breast cancer survivor. Read more: The Parsons Sun - Nalleys Early detection works
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Pink ribbons are so commonplace in today's society that although knowing they represent breast cancer awareness and a search for a cure, Steve Nalley admits the symbolism meant little to him until 2009 — then it meant everything.

It was on Oct. 13, 2009, when his wife Kari went for her annual mammogram ahead of schedule because of finding a knot.

"When you don't have someone close to you that is directly affected, you see all these pink ribbons and have people coming to your door asking for donations, and you kind of dismiss it … at least until it hits your family to open your eyes up to why they are doing it," Mr. Nalley said.

Mrs. Nalley performed self-exams for a few weeks following her mammogram, while it was fresh on her mind. Then, as weeks passed, she became lax about it the rest of the year. As October neared, talk of Breast Cancer Awareness Month served as a reminder to her.

"I had not been doing them faithfully, but in September started doing it. I had a mammogram coming up in October, too," she said. "So, there was nothing in September, but the second week of October I found a knot."

Radiography got her in immediately.

Mr. Nalley gave little thought to his wife's annual mammograms. But when he learned the mammogram confirmed a lump in her left breast, and a follow up sonogram and a biopsy determined the mass was malignant cancer, he was devastated.

"I couldn't manage without her," Mr. Nalley said. "She's everything to me. She's my world. I wouldn't want to live it without her."

The mass, nonexistent to touch the month before, had grown to 5 centimeters, putting Mrs. Nalley at stage 4 of cancer.

Anything above 3 centimeters is considered stage 4," she said.

The news came two days before their 21st wedding anniversary.

The couple experienced together, and separately, the initial fear, denial and anger wrought by the cancer.

"I had my moments of pointing fingers, and when I would get no sleep at night," Mr. Nalley said. "As a husband it was my job to take care of her and our daughters, and there was nothing I could do to stop this or control it. It was a rough stage. ... Truthfully, she was amazing. She was so strong and she was the one that had to comfort me."

Because of the risks involved with the rapidly growing cancer, Mrs. Nalley wanted to take no chances any cancer cells would remain, and opted for a mastectomy. They performed the surgery on Oct. 22 and she began chemotherapy Nov. 21, 2009.

"I lost my hair Dec. 23," she said. "You would think losing your hair would not be that big of a deal, but it is. The way people talk, you think you are going to just wake up one morning and all your hair will still be on the pillow, but it's not like that. It happens slowly, when each time you go to shower you get handfuls of hair. ... I got to where I would get stomach aches before going to shower because of having to relive it every time."

Her husband took over the job so she would not have to feel or see the clumps of hair on her hands, and her hair stylist kept fixing her hair until nothing remained to fix. Then she donned a cap.

Radiation treatments began in January — six weeks of traveling to Coffeyville every day.

Mrs. Nalley said their two daughters, Chelsea, now 18, and Haley, 14, supported her through the entire ordeal, from her surgery to the end of treatments, with the exception of sitting at the hospital during her chemotherapy.

"There were a few people there that were very negative, and did not have good attitudes, because they had this and I did not want the girls to have that view," Mrs. Nalley said. "I did not want them to look at it like that. I wanted them to stay positive, that we were going to beat this."

Treatments took their toll on Nalley, making her extremely ill and tired, but those around her kept her fighting.

Besides her husband and daughters, Mrs. Nalley said she received support from friends, members of her church and even the community during fundraisers to help with medical bills.

"Everyone was so wonderful," Mrs. Nalley said.

She completed chemotherapy and radiation in 2010, and while the doctor cannot tell her she is 100 percent cancer free, she said he believes there is a 99.9999 chance she is.

"I've done several seminars since going through my treatment, and the one thing I stress is that I'm the first in my family to get breast cancer, so the importance of self-exams and mammograms is huge, even before the age of 40 if you have reason to be concerned. You never know," she said. "When I started my treatment, there was a 17-year-old girl in there with me that had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It hits all ages. It does not discriminate, so it is very important to get annual mammograms, and perform self-exams. Breast cancer can be very aggressive, so the longer you wait, the more risk there is of not catching it in time."

The same year Mrs. Nalley developed breast cancer, 372 people died of breast cancer in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports.

"An estimated one out of every eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her life. While this is a very sobering statistic, screening and early detection can help identify cancer in its early stages when the disease is most treatable. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) encourages women to be informed about the effectiveness of screening and early diagnosis,” said Dr. Robert Moser of KDHE wrote in a prepared statement.

"In Kansas, 1,916 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 (the most recent year for which statistics are available)," he wrote. "In 2009, 369 women and 3 men (372 total) died of breast cancer in Kansas.

“The best screening tool for breast cancer is a mammogram. A woman’s chance of survival is best if cancer is detected early, before it spreads to other parts of the body,” said Moser. “In fact, when breast cancer is found early the five-year survival rate is 98 percent.”

Several lifestyle recommendations may reduce the risk of breast cancer. These include avoiding tobacco, staying active, maintaining a healthy body weight, limiting alcohol intake to one or fewer drinks per day and increasing fiber intake with whole grains, vegetables and fruits.

Mr. Nalley now does everything he can to help raise awareness.

It is with pride he speaks of the large pink ribbon his daughters painted on their driveway on Kay Lane, and beside the words, "Fighting 4 A Cure" — an idea his wife came up with to generate awareness.

"It is hard to believe they have not found a cure for cancer yet, but they haven't. For any family impacted by cancer, it is devastating," physically, emotionally and financially, Mr. Nalley said. "People have no idea how difficult this battle is until they go through it themselves. We want to do everything we can to raise awareness and help find a cure, so others do not have to go through what we did.”

Read more: The Parsons Sun - Nalleys Early detection works
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