One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, according to nationalbreastcancer.org. Each year, about 250,00 women in the United States alone are diagnosed with breast cancer. The University of Indianapolis community also deals with such battles.
Head Softball Coach Melissa Frost was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2016 and will still be receiving treatment until early 2018. She said her initial reaction to her diagnosis was that she felt like it was a conversation with somebody else; she couldn’t believe that it was happening.
“It definitely turns your world upside down,” Frost said. “It just really teaches you that insignificant things are not that big. That’s something that I have learned.”
She also stated that the situation tested her faith but ultimately made her faith stronger.
Bellarmine University hosted an event after her diagnosis last fall called Faith Fight Frost. Assisant Coach Sara Kabuske said Frost was angry when she first found out that the event was being held for her.
“She wanted to go through the whole thing without anybody knowing, except for her family, but it just wasn’t realistic.” Kubuske said. “I think it was a bit of a shock. We kicked it off and planned it pretty close to when she was first diagnosed, and she was so mad. Now, though, it’s refreshing to see she’s comfortable with it.”
Frost said that to walk into Owsley Brown Frazier Stadium and realize that the event was for her was very overwhelming. Over the course of her 13-year coaching career, her team has played and honored those affectd by breast cancer many times, but to realize that they were now honoring her personally was a different story.
Frost said that the entire experience was humbling, and that the support of her team made the experience real for her.
“I was taken aback,” Frost said. “And to walk in, I was like, ‘Oh great, We’re supporting breast cancer.’ And then I realized it was for me, and reality just really set in then.”
Frost did have a change of heart about the event and said she is now beyond grateful for the support of her friends, family and colleagues.
“I have personally thanked a lot of people, and I want to personally thank the UIndy community for everything that they’ve done,” Frost said.
Frost said the hardest part of her journey was sharing her diagnosis with the people she loves.
“Telling the team was extremely difficult, because you think you’re invincible,” she said. “I’m a very private person. I thought I could keep this in my own little circle and Coach A looked at me and said ‘What are you going to do when you start losing your hair? How are you going to explain that?’ Those are the things that you really don’t want to talk about… I kept reminding myself that something good has to come out of this.”
Frost teaches wellness at UIndy, a course which briefly covers cancer over the course of the semester. Frost said that she likes to use that opportunity to touch on her experience and educate young women so that they can detect cancer earlier and, hopefully, avoid chemotherapy.
“I never looked at this as a negative, though,” Frost said. “It was just life. It was what was handed to me. It was just one thing that wasn’t going to knock me down.”
Instructional Technologist and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Kiggins shared a similar story. She was diagnosed in December 2013, two days after Christmas.
“I had to wait through Christmas to find out,” Kiggins said. “I actually had to call them [the hospital] to find out. It was very frustrating and stressful.”
Kiggins is now cancer free, but she still attends checkups every six months and will continue to do so for the next five years. After, she will receive checkups once a year for an additional five years.
Kiggins said her initial reaction to her diagnosis was shock, because there had been no history of breast cancer in her family. She said that she had been having pain in the left side of her breast, which was the reason that brought her to the clinic in the first place, but the pain was not indicative.
“The pain had nothing to do with breast cancer,” Kiggins said. “It was just something that got me to the doctor earlier.”
Kiggins said her biggest support was her personal family and her university family. Nurses from the clinic provided support by going to her appointments with her. She also said her personal health journey page, Caring Bridge, was a big help.
“Anybody who goes through anything, I recommend that,” Kiggins said.“The continued support that I had from everyone was amazing.”
Kiggins is now Vice Chair for Pink Ribbon Connection, an organization that provides emotional support, local resources and education to those across Indiana affected by breast cancer. Kiggins said that the most surprising thing to her is that cancer doesn’t have an age.
To Kiggins, being able to help others is very rewarding. Through the organization, she is able to provide many women with the support that they need and use her own experience to encourage others.
“I think [that] it is if God leads you to it, He’ll lead you through it. This is what He has led me to,” said Kiggins. “It’s been very rewarding. Breast cancer has given me a service opportunity. I’ve always looked for something meaningful, and I feel this is what God has put for me.”