- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) - Kim Wood wasn’t going to any funeral. So why dress like it?

She was battling breast cancer, not surrendering to the disease. So she’d get gussied up just a bit for her many medical appointments and procedures.

“A girl told me ‘You’re not dying,’” Wood recalled. “So when you go to chemo, put your lipstick on, you get dressed up and you don’t look like you’re doing to die because you’re gonna fight this.”

Kim, now cancer free, stood next to her husband and smiled as the young couple watched their two scrappy peewee children chase squawking chickens across the family’s one-acre spread - yardbirds chasing yardbirds.

“I love that advice,” she said of the fashion tip. “You can wallow in sadness all you want, but it doesn’t do anything for you.”

Kim Wood, 33, was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in November 2013 after finding the dreaded lump under the armpit. She said her doctor previously told her she wasn’t a big risk for breast cancer because of family history.

Doctors performed three biopsies on tissue from her left breast - all three tested positive for cancer. It was devastating news for Kim, who was still enjoying the dawn of a growing family. Daughter Lela was 4 then. Son Cooper was only 1. She and her husband, Jonathan Wood, an Escambia County Sheriff’s deputy, had recently purchased a country home with a big yard for the children and chickens, and a pack of pines and oaks at the back to offer peace and privacy.

The couple met when they were in high school - him at Tate, her at Escambia. They married 12 years ago, and have been growing and nurturing their young family since. But then, cancer. It’s happened to so many mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, grannies, aunties, co-workers, neighbors and friends - fellas can get breast cancer, too.

“We were shocked,” Kim said. “It wasn’t part of the plan. We didn’t have it on our radar at all.”

Yes, she battled. She fought. Yes, she wore lipstick to show her determination in the face of pain and possible death. She survived cancer by fighting cancer. But she’s not going to lie. There were times - especially early on - when she couldn’t help but consider the worst. She had to. As a wife and mother, it would be irresponsible not to.

“I was scared,” she said, while Jonathan broke away to tell his fleet-footed kids to give the chickens a break from playing chase. “I thought ‘Who is going to take care of my babies?’ ‘What am I going to do?’”

It’s a natural reaction. But Kim counted on her faith and her doctors at Baptist Hospital, and then, the physicians at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to help get her by. Jonathan went on emergency family leave and the family relocated to Jacksonville for six weeks.

“His job was such a blessing because they were willing to work with us, and there was a lady at our church who had a home in Jacksonville who let us stay there for six weeks. He (Jonathan) would let me sleep during the day while they would play.” Again, she said, she felt blessed.

“I’m cancer free,” she said. “I was scared at one time that I wouldn’t live this life here.”

She smiled while her son and daughter giggled over chicken antics.

“I have chickens,” she said. “We own a house now. Have two babies.”

She knows that others will face the same battle. Some already are.

Her advice for all women? Keep vigilant - regardless of your family history, though, maybe more so if your family history is susceptible.

“I got erroneous information,” she said. “If I hadn’t, I might have been more proactive.”

She urged other women to take control of their own health concerns.

“You’re your best advocate,” she said. “You know your body.”

___

Information from: Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, https://www.pensacolanewsjournal.com

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