• 61°

Faith helps Selma cancer survivor

Allison Kelley, far left, was first diagnosed with tubular carcinoma breast cancer last August. After receiving a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery, Kelley has been cancer free since November. Pictured with Allison is her daughter, Mary Logan, and husband, Mark. -- Desiree Taylor

August 2011 was not only the beginning of a new school year for Southside Primary School teacher Allison Kelley, but it was also the start of something that would change her life forever.

Kelley, shortly after a routine mammogram and checkup, was diagnosed with bilateral cancer in her breasts.

“I had moved to a different gynecologist in Birmingham (and) when I swapped gynecologists, I missed a year (with mammogram),” Kelley said. “I got a letter from the diagnostic center in Birmingham that something was suspicious. I was sent to a breast surgeon that day (Aug. 25) at Brookwood hospital and got a biopsy that night.”

Doctors later checked Kelley’s right breast and found a lump. Doctors told Kelley the procedure to remove the lump would be easily treatable but suggested she get a MRI done on her left breast. Doctors found a tumor. Kelley had tubular carcinoma in both breasts.

Kelley received a call several days later to inform her of the dismal discovery.

“They called me on Aug. 30 and said, ‘yes, you definitely have breast cancer,’” Kelley said. “I wasn’t aware you can have two different types of cancer in both breasts. The day I was diagnosed with cancer was my (oldest) daughter’s first day of classes at Samford University.”

For Kelley, the news seemed unbelievable.

“When I first received the note that there was a possible spot, I didn’t want to tell my daughters because I didn’t want them to worry,” Kelley said. “I kept it between me and my husband and a few close friends. My principal is a true prayer warrior.

“I had prayer time every morning beforehand and I knew He (God) would go before me, he’ll be with me (and) he’ll be there everywhere I go; I told my daughters, ‘we will fight this, God will see us through this.’”

After a lumpectomy in September, Kelley also decided to have a double mastectomy in November. Kelley spent many nights in the hospital, even around Christmas.

“During Christmas I contracted a staph skin infection on my left breast,” Kelley said. “I spent four nights in the hospital. That was not so fun, I was really sick then … I could not have made it through any of this without my faith, my family and my friends; they were there to support me.”

Kelley said the process was at times too hard to bear.

“Negative thoughts and fear did come in but I’ve always been an optimistic person,” Kelley said. “During my MRI in Birmingham, that’s when I had a panic attack, I started prayer … I said, ‘I know you’re here (God), I feel you.’ The song, ‘This is Where the Healing Begins,’ came on the radio. I fell asleep in the MRI, I had peace.”

Kelley, who is also a member of First Baptist Church, received an outpouring of support from the community — from prayers and warm thoughts, throughout her ordeal.

“Church members were calling, sending cards,” Kelley said. “We complain a lot, of things about Selma and what we don’t have like other cities, but that’s material,” Kelley said. “Let something happen to you personally and people will reach out; you cannot believe the showering of love from this community.”

Kelley is now cancer free.

“I will still have to take hormone therapy … I have to see an oncologist and breast surgeon every six months,” Kelley said. “My strength came through faith and my family, they were at every surgery, and my extended family, were there through the whole process.”

Kelley credits her husband Mark and her daughters Lindsey and Mary Logan for her fortunate recovery.

“My husband has never grumbled or complained, and he’s always been by my side. I couldn’t have done it without him,” Kelley said. “Mary Logan is my little angel. She’d take care of me through thick and thin, at home with me always. I told God, ‘I don’t know why you chose to spare me (but) I will promise, I will try to glorify you and praise your name in every step I make … I praise God through all of it.”

Kelley said “believing” is key to overcoming.

“We all have different stories but know God has us in the palm of his hands,” Kelley said. “Cancer is a journey (and) everyone’s journey is different … our greatest disappointment brings us closer to God. Sometimes our disappointments are our greatest blessing.”