When Marcella Kelly learned she had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a type of breast cancer, she was already well aware of the stress, uncertainty and exhaustion that comes with illness, hospital stays, surgeries and medical tests. She was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2002 and, at one point, spent three months in the hospital with a perforated colon. She also has rheumatoid arthritis.
“It’s not like my husband, Jay, and I weren’t used to terrible emergency situations,” Marcell said. “But it was another knock down. It was like, okay, I’ve gotten back up but now I’m getting knocked down four notches again.”
For Marcella, there were no signs or symptoms indicating she had breast cancer. In February 2019, she had her annual exam and mammogram. A week later, the radiologist asked her to come in for a biopsy. When it was time for the results, Marcella realized something was wrong when a nurse navigator came into the room with the radiologist. “When they told me it was breast cancer, I was shocked,” she said.
Marcella’s treatment included a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. After finishing radiation therapy, she started to experience pain and swelling. Her doctor treated her for mastitis, but after four rounds of antibiotics that didn’t seem to be helping, Marcella sought a second opinion. Her new doctor determined Marcella had chronic lymphedema, which occurs when fluid collects in areas such as the arm, breast/chest or back and causes swelling.
Marcella uses a compression vest several times a week, as well as an electronic full chest and waist compression suit every evening for an hour. “It’s hard,” Marcella said. “But my doctor is hopeful things will improve. She’s pleased with the results so far and is hopeful that the continued use of the compression vest and suits will help.”
When it comes to support, Marcella is grateful to have her family, including three children and five grandchildren, and her friends. “I know there are people who don’t have family or don’t have friends,” Marcella said. “And they need to know Komen is just a phone call away, that there’s help. There’s financial help, too. It’s wonderful that Komen is around to help people going through this.”
Her faith is also a comfort. “I say my rosary ever night and I thank God every day I wake up,” she said. “I find that sometimes, finding a quiet place, listening to some soft music, saying a little prayer and reaching deep down into your faith, it will help get you through.”