Special to Fayette Newspapers
On the day after her birthday last year, Kelly Walker of Piedmont Fayette Hospital got some bad news. She had just had her annual mammogram and Nikki Sroka, MD, told her that they found two spots and those spots were cancer.
“Dr. Sroka told me that she was going to be in my life for the next six months to a year and I didn’t believe her,” Walker said. “I did not think I had breast cancer. That’s why those annual check-ups are so important.”
The official diagnosis was triple negative breast cancer. Most chemotherapies target one of three receptors, but triple negative breast cancer does not express the genes for any of the receptors, so a combination of therapies are required.
Walker has been a member of the security team at Piedmont Fayette since March and had previously worked security at Piedmont Newnan Hospital. It didn’t matter that she was fairly new to the Piedmont Fayette team though, she felt like everyone she encountered, whether at work or in treatment, treated her like family.
“I had everything done at Piedmont Fayette; three surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation,” said Walker. “Everyone was wonderful, from patient access to the surgeons.” Walker added that Elaine Harbin, the patient navigator for Piedmont Fayette’s cancer center was awesome. “I love her. She called me at home and visited me at the office. She was always there for me.”
The trait that Walker found in all of the employees that helped her through her treatment was kindness. It was kindness that she had often seen exhibited to other patients as a member of the staff and it was kindness that she now experienced firsthand. Walker felt like everyone was rooting her on throughout the process and they continue to show their support still when they see her making her rounds around the hospital.
Cancer can be a teacher and Walker feels like she learned some valuable lessons along the way.
“I learned not to be afraid to talk about it,” she said. Her mother is a two-time breast cancer survivor but she chose to never talk about what she went through. Walker was able to talk to other patients going through similar situations during her treatment and loved that everyone encouraged each other. She also learned a lot about her husband.
“He’s just my best friend,” she said. “He went through it all with me and got me through it. It was him and prayer, prayer, prayer.”
Walker started chemotherapy in January and was done on June 19. She started radiation on her birthday of this year and finished on Sept. 24. When patients complete their final round of radiation, they get a certificate signed by the doctors and nurses and they get to ring a bell, symbolizing the end of their treatment.
“Dr. Sroka saw me the day I was going to ring the bell and said ‘You ring that bell, girl,” Walker recalled with a smile. “She’s just brilliant. She has an out of this world memory and is just super. I love her.”
A cancer diagnosis is never a good thing, but sometimes you can isolate some good things that came out of it. Walker is feeling better, rarely seen without a smile on her face, and she has seen and felt the love from her friends, colleagues and caregivers. They were often one and the same.