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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: 'Victorious, not victims'

 

Betty Powers tells her and her daughter's story of battling cancer Monday afternoon at Sally Kate Winter's Park in West Point. Powers was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2015, and her daughter Angie McKinney was diagnosed with breast cancer in February.

Betty Powers tells her and her daughter's story of battling cancer Monday afternoon at Sally Kate Winter's Park in West Point. Powers was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2015, and her daughter Angie McKinney was diagnosed with breast cancer in February. Photo by: Mary Pollitz/Dispatch Staff

 

Angie McKinney dresses in pink as she continues her battle with breast cancer daily. After a double mastectomy and 18 weeks of chemotherapy, she will start five weeks of radiation next week.

Angie McKinney dresses in pink as she continues her battle with breast cancer daily. After a double mastectomy and 18 weeks of chemotherapy, she will start five weeks of radiation next week.
Photo by: Courtesy photo

 

 

Mary Pollitz

 

 

Betty Powers was sitting under a hair dryer in a beauty salon on Valentine's Day when her daughter, Angie McKinney, called and said she had stage three breast cancer.  

 

Powers, who is currently battling lymphoma, stayed strong for her daughter until the phone call ended. Powers remembered her chemotherapy and treatment, but thinking of her daughter going through a similar battle felt more difficult. 

 

"I cried. I didn't cry about mine, but I cried about hers," Powers said. "I knew this was going to be a tough journey. You don't want your child to go through that after you've been through it." 

 

When Powers was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, she traveled to Chicago to receive six rounds of chemotherapy, with her daughter by her side. Her fight still continues with chemotherapy treatments every other month in Starkville. 

 

Powers, who lives in West Point, continues traveling nearly 700 miles to support her daughter in Chicago. She took the train to visit after her daughter had a double mastectomy and again once chemotherapy began.  

 

McKinney would frequently ask her mother to visit and even ask her to stay longer. But, since Powers still receives her own treatments, her visits aren't as long as either wish. Powers said her daughter has always been a strong woman, and watching McKinney struggle was out of the norm.  

 

"Angie has always been my independent child," Powers said. "Even when she was a little girl, she could do everything herself." 

 

 

 

'I didn't want to be sick' 

 

McKinney said she first felt the lump in her breast March 2017. She didn't go to doctor then -- she waited. Getting cancer wasn't on her radar. After receiving her diagnosis in February, she was quick to blame herself, she said. 

 

Though now, she said she only holds herself accountable for delaying and hopes her example will teach others not to do what she did. 

 

"I would want everyone to know, whenever there is a difference in your breasts or under your arm, don't ignore it," McKinney said. "It will determine your entire treatment plan and your outcome." 

 

McKinney would have to have chemotherapy in order to have a full recovery. Her mind flashed back to her mother's difficult treatments in Chicago. She said she couldn't imagine having to go through the same process. 

 

"I just knew that I didn't want to be sick," McKinney said. "I have never been ill in my life. Then, I'm going to have to have chemo, and I was like 'oh my God,' because I knew what it did to my mom." 

 

McKinney's next thought was she needed to finish her bachelor's degree to become a registered nurse. While attending Chamberlain School of Nursing, she was simultaneously receiving 18 weeks of chemotherapy. She said, with the help of God, she never felt sick until she graduated college. 

 

The day after graduation, the chemotherapy began its toll on her body. She lost her hair and felt weaker and weaker each day. 

 

"Every morning, it's hard to get out of bed," McKinney said. "It's very, very debilitating. It was awful. It's like you're practically dead." 

 

McKinney's inspiration to push through not only college, but treatment was simple: Her family. 

 

"My motivation was, I was a mom of four and I always wanted the best life I could have for my kids and myself," McKinney said. "All my boys are grown now. I thought, there's no way I went through all of this for nothing. There's no way that I earned a bachelor's degree and then I'm just going to die." 

 

McKinney will continue her fight with five weeks of radiation starting next week, but she remains positive thanks in part to her mother's constant uplifting phone calls. 

 

"We're there for each other," Powers said. "We try not to talk about cancer. We talk about the grand-babies. We laugh about the twins. We have so much to laugh and talk about, we just try to forget about cancer." 

 

McKinney said those positive phone calls have helped keep her from feeling defeated throughout her fight. 

 

"You want to be positive, but it gets hard sometimes," McKinney said. "You don't want to be a victim, you want to be victorious." 

 

Together, mother and daughter continue their fight to becoming cancer-free. McKinney said her mother loudly continues the advocacy and awareness for the two of them. 

 

"Mom does a lot of posts and everything all the time," McKinney said. "She's always acknowledging and making everyone aware of her outcome and mine. My mom is really positive. My mom wears pink and purple."

 

 

 

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