Kris Vaughn’s Journey With Breast Cancer
October is here, and my mind is filled with the memories of my recent journey with breast cancer. It has been exactly one year since I received the news that no one wants to hear. I can still remember that day, faced with the realization that my life was taking a turn, and although I was able to lean heavily into my faith, I still understood that I had to act.
The journey started with a routine mammogram, something I had been doing annually. However, this time, the radiologist noticed an abnormality. It wasn’t initially cause for alarm, but they said we need to watch it. So, in 2021, I began going every six months for routine checkups so the doctors could monitor my scans for any changes or signs of growth.
One year later, they noticed a change. And once they did, I was scheduled for a biopsy, ultimately delivering that life-changing news: You have cancer.
Time To Act
When my radiologist called the next day, I learned that I had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). This type of cancer is not gene-related, which is good news for my daughter. However, the doctor did explain that although DCIS is an early form of cancer — considered Stage 0 — it is aggressive.
I remember how I felt that day — torn between good and bad news. The path forward involved a double mastectomy, but I was relieved it was only Stage 0 and equally thankful we could act quickly, even though that’s not what I initially wanted to do.
Because of DCIS’ aggressive nature, the doctors encouraged me not to postpone surgery. So, I saw a surgeon on Tuesday, and we scheduled surgery that Friday; even the doctor seemed a bit surprised he had the availability!
During my initial consultation with the surgeon, another decision I had to make was whether or not to undergo breast reconstruction. There is tremendous pressure to have reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy, but that wasn’t a path I wanted to pursue. For me, the decision not to have it was an easy one, and I knew my recovery would be faster without it. My husband Trent also supported me in that decision, which was a tremendous blessing.
Timing Is Everything
They say timing is everything, which was definitely the case here. Only ten days passed from when I discovered I had cancer until the surgery. It was over before I even had time to process it all.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wanted to postpone taking immediate action because I was busy preparing for an upcoming special event — my daughter’s wedding. The thought of having surgery and dealing with recovery just two months before her New Year’s Eve wedding wasn’t ideal. But once I understood the need for action, I felt peace that whatever the outcome, I would be alright. There were many emotions in all of this, but fear wasn’t one of them.
I’m a Survivor, but It’s Complicated
One year later, I am grateful to be cancer-free. My cancer journey wasn’t like what some others face. In comparison, it seemed “easy.” And because of that, I sometimes have feelings of guilt.
I often find it difficult to relate to the term “cancer survivor” because my experience with it was brief. I have much to be thankful for — the cancer had not moved into my lymph nodes, and unlike many others, I didn’t require additional chemotherapy or radiation treatments. My doctor confirmed that I am “surgically cured,” and that’s a title I’m happy to take!
While no one wants to face a cancer diagnosis, I was so grateful for the help, support, and kind words of the friends and family that rallied around me, including Kendall Pretzer, Grace Hill’s CEO. After my diagnosis, she reached out with words of wisdom and encouragement from her own breast cancer journey, and she shared a list of suggested items that would help with recovery. It was incredibly beneficial, and I felt extremely grateful for her help.
My advice is not to let life get in the way. You will always be busy. In my case, I was helping my daughter plan a wedding. If I had put off my six-month follow-ups, it could have made a difference in my prognosis and recovery.
For those reading, I hope the takeaway is this: Go to your appointments and be consistent with preventative checkups. It matters.
As I reflect on this last year, I am proof that early detection saves lives. It’s something I cannot stress enough. Had I let life get in the way, the doctors may not have caught the cancer in time.
About The Author
Kris Vaughn has been a key member of the PolicyPartner team for 12 years and currently serves as an Implementation Specialist for Grace Hill. Kris is a natural encourager and looks for ways to bring smiles and laughter to the people and situations around her.
A proud Midwesterner, Kris was raised in Iowa, where she received her degree in business management from Central College in Pella, Iowa. However, she and her husband, Trent, have called Texas home for over 22 years! Outside of work, she enjoys supporting her college alma mater, traveling, and spending time with her adult children.