In April 2019, Kelli Ransdell and her husband Mike welcomed their first child, a son named Harlim. “We were overjoyed,” she said. Then, in September 2019, they learned Kelli was pregnant with their second child.
Everything seemed perfect as they prepared to make their family of three a family of four— until one day, while breastfeeding Harlim, Kelli noticed her right breast felt different.
“I wasn’t nervous when I found the lump,” she recalled. “I thought it was a swollen milk duct.” But she mentioned it to her OBGYN. He ordered an ultrasound, which revealed two lumps in her right breast. “For me, personally, my goal was to protect my baby,” Kelli said. Her doctor updated her chart to show that Kelli likely had breast cancer.
Kelli gave birth soon after to a healthy baby girl named Gennesis. She breastfed for six months, then knew it was time to do what she had put off: Undergo a mammogram and genetic testing. “After my mammogram, that’s when my breast cancer journey began,” Kelli said. The genetic testing showed Kelli was BRAC2 positive, meaning she had the BRAC2 gene mutation and she also had a PALB2 mutation.
“Suddenly, my world was full of appointments, specialists, hospital visits,” she said. “The future didn’t seem very bright, but I stayed positive.” Kelli longed to be the smiling, fun-loving mom she’d imagined herself to be. “I wanted that so badly.”
In August 2021, Kelli underwent a double mastectomy with reconstruction. In January, she will have a total hysterectomy. At that point, her doctor will determine whether she’ll need to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
“Throughout this process, I found that no matter how cancer affects your body, it’s also a mental process,” Kelli said. “It can be very mentally draining. But I have these gifts from God, my husband and my children. It’s given me a better outlook on life.”
Kelli’s birthday falls at the end of November, which means every few years, her birthday falls on Thanksgiving. This year, Kelli has so much to be thankful for. “Throughout everything, my goal has been to stay happy,” Kelli said. “In the beginning I didn’t know if I could do it or not. But you know what? I’m doing it.”