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Atchison preaches perseverance in L.V. Stabler Survivor’s Brunch

Kathy Atchison recalled her decades-long battle with breast cancer to a host of fellow survivors and their families during L.V. Stabler Hospital's annual Cancer Survivor Brunch Friday.

Kathy Atchison recalled her decades-long battle with breast cancer to a host of fellow survivors and their families during L.V. Stabler Hospital’s annual Cancer Survivor Brunch Friday.

It was time to celebrate and remember on Friday at L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital. Breast cancer survivors and their family members/caregivers gathered at the hospital’s cafeteria for the annual brunch, followed by a balloon release in honor and memory of those who have fought the battle.

One of their own spoke about her experiences as a 21-year breast cancer survivor. Kathy Atchison, who worked for 27 years with the Butler County Board of Education, opened her talk by leading her fellow cancer vets in a rousing cheer as they shook their pink pompoms in celebration of their victory.

“I am not here to focus on the bad stuff . . . through everything I have been through, I have tried to find the humor in it,” said Atchison.

She admits she spent three days “rocking and crying” after her diagnosis.

“I had a 6th grader, Rebecca, and a 12th grader, Jennifer, and I was asking, ‘Why me, God, why did this have to happen?’” Atchison said.

And then she got the impetus to get on with the business of living. “I found out my 12th grader wanted to go to Panama City with her friends for spring break. And I knew I had to get out of that rocking chair,” she explained.

Atchison climbed into the back of her daughter’s Geo for a road trip. “we drove up and down that beach until I found a hotel I felt was going to be safe. And when I saw all the Alabama Crimson Tide stuff inside it, I knew I’d found the place,” the die-hard Bama fan said with a grin.

Atchison followed her oncologist’s advice and had a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection and then began her rounds of chemo (“Did you know you can live on dill pickles? You can!”).

Part of the clerical staff at RL Austin Elementary in Georgiana at the time, Atchison said the support of administrators, staff and students alike helped her maintain a positive attitude.

“I never stopped working through all this while I was undergoing treatment. If I was having a bad day, I would find flowers on my desk. I was never charged with a single day off against me,” Atchison said adding, “Somehow the paperwork just seemed to disappear before it made it to the Central Office.”

In the summer of ’95, Atchison took a 3,000 mile road trip.

“That was 36 trips to Montgomery and back for treatment. My oldest daughter changed her work hours so she could take me,” she explained. “And my youngest wanted to go, too, because there was fresh donuts and juice every time at the cancer center—they loved that!”

Over the years, some of her fellow cancer patients have lost their battle. Trusted oncologists have come and gone. There was a fear cancer had spread to her lungs (“They said it turned out to be shadows on the x-ray that were a side effect of my treatment. I think my mother prayed it away”).

And in the past decade or so, Atchison herself lost her prayer warrior mother and her beloved husband.

“There have been roadblocks, definitely,” she admits. “The first time I walked into that cancer center by myself it was overwhelming.”

However, Atchison’s faith and determination kept her going through the darkest days.

“There were two things I kept praying for. One was to see my children grow up. And that happened and one is sitting here right now,” Atchison said, nodding towards her young daughter. “And the second thing was I prayed to be able to hold my grandchildren—and I have, all four . . . now, I pray to be there for someone else in need.”

She left her listeners with a quote: “Support the fighters, admire the survivors—and never, ever give up.”