There was never any doubt in Kim Whitish's mind that she would beat her cancer diagnosis, and that's exactly what she did. In fact, she has beaten the disease twice. Whitish, who works at North Dakota Guaranty and Title Company in Minot, was diagnosed with melanoma in 2006 and with breast cancer in August 2013. She recently completed her last round of chemotherapy.
Whitish said she felt fine when she discovered a lump while in the shower, but ignored it for about a month until deciding to see the doctor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in August, had a double mastectomy in October followed by reconstructive surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and in November started chemotherapy. She underwent 16 rounds of chemo over 20 weeks and finished her last treatment on April 3 of this year.
During treatment, Whitish said she worked the whole time, adding that she was really lucky to not have too many side effects from the chemo.
Kim Whitish, shown in front of The Minot Daily News, just finished her last chemo treatment for breast cancer and will be participating in her 10th Relay for Life.
"I never threw up, but I had crazy joint pain and ridiculous fatigue, but I could deal with that," she said. "There wasn't anything that could keep me from life."
The hardest part of having cancer for Whitish was asking for help and admitting that she didn't feel good.
"I couldn't do everything I used to," she said.
There were lots of things after the surgery that the doctors forgot to tell her about, Whitish said. However, she thought the physical aspects of having cancer would be harder than the emotional aspects.
That wasn't necessarily the case.
"No one tells you when you're alone in the middle of the night that that's the hardest time," Whitish said.
The most support during the near year of cancer came from her husband, Whitish said.
"He gets the No. 1 billing," she said. "He's been amazing."
They have been together for 13 years. Whitish said that you think after that long you already know everything about the other person, but she learned a lot about her husband that she didn't know.
"When the person has to help you sit up or help you to the bathroom at night, you realize how much they love you," Whitish said. "When you have to have someone help take care of you, you expect them to get tired of it, but (my husband) never did. He was a trooper."
Whitish said it was surprising to her how many people were following her story and waiting for Facebook updates.
"I didn't realize how many people loved and cared about me," she said. One of Whitish's co-workers even shaved her head as a way of showing extra support.
"I never missed a treatment and my blood counts were never too low," Whitish said. "From the beginning, I was just determined and wouldn't let cancer win."
One thing that carried Whitish through her journey was the thought that "you're stronger than you think you are."
Also, a couple of weeks ago when she was wearing a wig, a friend of hers mentioned the Dr. Seuss quote, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
Whitish said she hasn't worn a wig or a scarf since.
This year also marks Whitish's 10th year participating in Relay for Life, which takes place on June 20 in Minot. She started when her grandfather was battling esophageal cancer, she said, and with her first diagnosis with melanoma in 2006, the meaning of Relay for Life became a little more real. She said the survivor lap reminds her why she's there.
"I have to keep doing it," Whitish said. "I do it so that a person never has to hear the words, 'You have cancer.'"