Tears flowed as cameras flashed.
Melody Crawford looked into the eyes of her mother, Arwilda Kinnard, and squeezed her around the neck. They were taking part in “Capturing the Moment” – a day dedicated to cancer patients and survivors capturing their journey and strength as they face cancer. Stylists, makeup artists and photographers volunteered their time and resources to pay special attention to patients, many who may not feel beautiful due to the devastating toll of cancer.
For Melody and Arwilda, the event was emotional, but their everyday strength comes from the support of each other and the rest of their family.
Arwilda was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2012. Then last June, Melody found a lump and was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
Melody, 39, now shares the same doctor her mother had six years ago: Dr. Beth Riley, a breast medical oncologist and deputy director of health affairs for UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
Even though they share the same doctor, their treatment plans were drastically different. Arwilda says her journey was “easy” compared to that of her daughter.
Arwilda had a lumpectomy, radiation and took hormonal therapy for five years. Melody’s cancer, however, was found in a later stage and is more aggressive. She underwent a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. She lost her breasts and she lost her hair – neither of which happened to her mother.
“My daughter’s journey is totally different from my own. I am here supporting her and I am still learning from what she is facing,” Arwilda said.
This month Melody would have been cancer-free for seven months; unfortunately, the cancer has returned to her lungs. Despite the setback, Melody says, “I’m a fighter. It’s not as hard because I have family support and my spirituality – I can conquer anything.”
Both agree they have received the best care at UofL Brown Cancer Center. “The breast team is awesome,” Melody said. “Because I already knew Dr. Riley from my mom’s care six years ago, it was easy to open up to her. They are all understanding, compassionate, caring and supportive. I am more than a patient to them and that makes the doctors’ visits so much easier.”
Melody said her cancer journey has made her appreciate life more. As a mother of three and grandmother to three more, she is used to nurturing others. “Now I have to learn to nurture myself and let others nurture me.”
“The journey has been difficult, but my family’s support keeps me motivated. After a long, hard day, when I see my grandkids running up to me, that changes my perspective and gives me a boost to fight another day.”