- Cullman, Alabama

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May 4, 2013

‘Each day is truly a gift’ - Kelli Powell joins other cancer survivors at Relay for Life

In mid 2011, 34-year-old Kelli Powell knew something wasn’t right. She had felt a lump in her breast but refused to believe the worst.

“It hurt and was sore, but I was also told cancer doesn’t hurt,” Powell said Friday evening at the 2013 Cullman County Relay for Life at the Cullman County Fairgrounds.

Powell had not told anyone, not even her husband, Mark, about her concerns.

“I didn’t want to believe it was cancer, but knew I needed to go for piece of mind.”

After a few months of worrying, she decided to go have herself checked out. She knew the answer before the words could come out of the doctor’s mouth.

Her local gynecologist wanted her to go immediately to see another doctor. The next day, she was having tests run.

“I just knew, even before the diagnosis. When you hear the “C” word, you just think you’re going to die.”

Soon after her diagnosis of Stage 2 breast cancer, Kelli had a double mastectomy and started chemotherapy in November of 2011.

For Powell, the hardest part of her cancer diagnosis was losing her hair and having to tell her then 6-year-old daughter about her illness.

“I just told her momma is sick and we just need to pray,” she recalled. “I told her not to be scared when my hair starts falling out. She said, ‘As long as you’re still you, it’s OK.’”

During those trying times, Powell learned to lean on God for all her needs.

“The most important thing was I became a stronger Christian,” she said. “I’ve learned to totally depend on the Lord. All my strength comes from him.”

As soon as she received her diagnosis, the second grade West Point Elementary teacher decided to take the rest of the year off. She is now back at the job she loves but would love to work in a support system for others who face what she did.

“I would love the opportunity to work with cancer patients,” she said. “That’s where my heart is. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t talk to someone with cancer.”

Through her entire ordeal, her friends and family were a great support system. Her mom and a good friend were with her at each treatment.

“I’ve learned each day is truly a gift,” Powell said. “It’s such a blessing to be able to get up. It really makes you put your priorities into perspective.”

Her husband said his family was surrounded by support from the community.

“We had so many people help us,” Mark said. “People would do everything for us, even go grocery shopping for us. We are so thankful for our family and friends.”

Kelli will continue to take a breast cancer preventative drug for the next five years. She visits her doctor every six months.

“My hair is finally growing back, and I’m even able to put it in a pony tail,” Kelli said with a smile.

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