By Bill Robinson
In July 2003, Kay Powell of Richmond, then 57, lost her job when her employer moved its manufacturing operation overseas.
Because of how she became unemployed, Powell was eligible for assistance with up to two years of schooling.
While she was exploring her career options, Powell was hit by an even greater challenge.
Her annual mammogram detected a lump in her breast.
That was on Oct. 4. Twelve days later, she was at Pattie A. Clay Hospital undergoing a lumpectomy.
“I was one of the luck ones,” said Powell, who moved to Richmond 26 years ago. “My cancer was detected early.”
The operation by Dr. Hamed Koury appeared to be successful, and she has been cancer-free for the past 10 years.
“I’m a strong believer in getting an annual mammogram,” she said, attributing her survival in large part to early detection.
With her surgery out of the way, Powell went back to thinking about what she would do for the rest of her life.
She decided Eastern Kentucky University’s child development program was the best fit for her, and both her husband and daughter encouraged her to enroll.
And after earning an associate’s degree, Powell went to work for the preschool program at Richmond’s First United Methodist Church.
She kept that job until her husband’s poor health led her to give it up to care for him.
While she was recovering from her surgery, Powell was visited by Arlayne Francis, co-founder of the Madison County Breast Cancer Support Group.
Members of the group visit breast cancer patients to deliver a “Recovery Basket” filled with items they will find useful after surgery.
The baskets typically are decorated with pink tissue and include items such as coffee mugs, candles, hand lotions, notebooks, coffee, tea, chewing gum, hard candies, devotional books and goodies from local beauty salons.
Powell appreciated the visit and the basket, but she didn’t get involved with the group until later.
While attending a Body Recall class, the exercise program for older adults, Powell noticed that she and another woman, Phyllis McDaniel, were wearing identical T-shirts promoting breast cancer awareness.
As they talked, McDaniel told Powell about her participation as an active member of the support group.
Recalling her initial experience with the organization, Powell decided to attend a meeting and has been active since.
Among the members are women who have been cancer-free for years longer than she, Powell said, and that helps give her hope of remaining free of cancer.
She also finds strength and satisfaction with the group to help others who are in the battle against breast cancer.
Powell was able to reassure a cancer patient who was anxious about taking a medication that she had taken. She shared her experience, telling the new patient about potential side effects and how to cope with them.
More recently, she worked a booth for the support group at a local fitness center to help raise money for a cancer patient to pay her medical bills.
On Nov. 2, she will be volunteering again, helping the group stage the annual Women’s Wellness Fun Day.