UIndy professor shares her breast cancer story

by Zoë Berg | Feature Editor
Published: Last Updated on

Beth Kiggins, an instructional technologist and assistant professor at the University of Indianapolis, spoke on Oct. 26 in front of a group of students and faculty about her religious background and her battle with breast cancer.

Kiggins was part of Soul Care Mondays’ event, Sharing My Story, which include a variety of speakers sharing their stories about how God and their faith have played a part in their lives. Soul Care Mondays are put on by the McCleary Chapel.

Beth Kiggins smiles for a picture with her daughter at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for life. Photo contributed by Beth Kiggins

Beth Kiggins smiles for a picture with her daughter at the American Cancer Society’s Relay for life. Photo contributed by Beth Kiggins

Kiggins began by sharing a book that had greatly impacted her life and faith, “When God Winks at You: How God Speaks Directly to You through the Power of Coincidence” by Squire Rushnell. She said that the book documented different “God Winks” and showed that nothing in life is coincidental. Kiggins also explained what the book meant to her and how it had impacted her life. Because of the book, she decided to call her story “God Thinks.”

Kiggins pulled up slides of her family and explained who everyone was. Kiggins said she had four siblings, and they were raised to be Catholic.

“The sacraments were very important to my parents,” Kiggins said. “All of us kids went to parochial school.”

Kiggins said that she began learning about her religion at home and in school. She said that she attended Catholic school until she went to junior high school. Afterwards, she continued to attend church and still does.

Kiggins then spoke more about the events in her life and how she felt God had been a part of them. She said that she went to Indiana State University to study Clinical psychology, and while she was there, she joined a sorority.

“I met many girls,” she said, “many of whom were Catholic. So they made sure we made it to church on Sundays.”

Kiggins feels friends like these are a part of her life for a reason. She discussed many of her friends that she said God placed in her life to help her along her journey. She also spoke a great deal about her father. She said he was a very important person in her life and to her faith.
She said her father always encouraged her to go to church and pursue her faith. But in the years before he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2003, she had stopped going to church.

“After Dad was diagnosed, I thought I needed to get right with God, so that if Dad looked down on me, he wouldn’t be disappointed,” Kiggins said.

Kiggins said after her father’s diagnosis and passing, she became more active in the church and went to confession for the first time in 20 years. She now has active roles in the church and often goes on women’s retreats and is involved in groups, such as a technology council, within her church.

Kiggins also brought with her a collection of more than a dozen rosaries, some of which were from Rome and Argentina, were made out of her parents’ funeral flowers or had been blessed by Pope Benedict. She said she prayed the rosary every day: first for those who were seriously ill, second for those who had breast cancer or have been affected by it, third for her family and friends, fourth for the leaders of the church and fifth for those who serve.

Kiggins said one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. She had everyone in the room stand up and asked them to sit down if they did not know someone who had had breast cancer; no one sat down.

Kiggins then began to share her breast cancer journey.  She said she found out something was wrong in 2013 when she brought up to her doctor a pain she was having in her breast. She said she went to the OB-GYN on Dec. 11 to have it checked out. They said she needed a needle biopsy, which she had on Dec. 23, and on Dec. 27, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Kiggins explained that she had Invasive Lobular Carcinoma, and that she had to have a mastectomy. She said she had the surgery to remove both of her breasts on March 17, and then she began chemotherapy on March 19 and had her reconstruction surgery on Oct. 9, 2014.

She said that her family and friends were very supportive throughout the entire process. She said the community at UIndy also was very supportive. She showed pictures the College of  Health Sciences and the School of Nursing had sent to her while she was in the hospital and shortly after her surgery.

“God placed me at UIndy for a reason,” Kiggins said, “so I’d have the support of my friends and family through this difficult time.”

Kiggins completed her treatment and has beaten breast cancer. She said she is now working with Pink Ribbon Connection to help inspire other women who are dealing with breast cancer.

Junior nursing major Whitney Weileman said her nursing instructor told her about the event and said it would be an eye-opener so she came and ended up loving it. She said she realized that even though something bad happens and it can be hard to understand God has a purpose.

“My nana had breast cancer when I was little, and I didn’t understand because of how young I was,” Weileman said. “It [hearing Kiggins’ story] gives you an open mind and helps you to understand.”

The next Soul Care Mondays speaker will  be Becca Cartledge, an instructor and nursing laboratory coordinator for the School of Nursing. She will share her story on Nov. 23 at 12 p.m. in the Trustees Dining Hall.

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