Craig breast cancer survivor commemorates 3 women who lost their battle
CRAIG — Pink is not usually Kim Dilldine’s color, but after breast cancer, she brings out her pink jewelry every October to celebrate her survival, commemorate those who have lost the battle and raise awareness.
The Craig resident’s battle began one morning in the shower in 2005.
“I just noticed the underside of my breast was all sucked up,” Dilldine said.
She consulted with her doctor and was sent to see a specialist.
“Within a matter of seconds, our whole, entire life changed, and they wanted to do a biopsy,” she recalled.
The diagnosis — stage-three breast cancer — changed everything.
But, Dilldine wasn’t alone in her fight.
“While I was battling cancer, three other women I know found a lump. One of those women was breastfeeding. They all passed away,” she said.
She said she will never forget the three Craig women — Debbie Sherman Hurst, Marla Nickelson Lynch and Bia Peroulis — who all lost their lives to the disease.
“Sometimes, I feel survivor’s guilt. What was it about me that I am a survivor and that they weren’t? It makes me sad,” Dilldine said. “So, I fight the battle on their behalf. I don’t take things for granted.”
One of the ways Dilldine fights the disease is by encouraging women to get regular mammograms.
The guidelines for when to begin, how often and when to end regular mammograms can be confusing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have created a chart of recommendations from seven organizations — the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2016, American Cancer Society in 2015, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2011, International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015, American College of Radiology in 2010, American College of Physicians and American Academy of Family Physicians in 2016.
All seven organizations agree that women age 50 to 74 with an average risk of breast cancer should have a mammogram every one or two years.
“I still rely on my mammogram. I don’t feel comfortable doing it every two years. I still get one every year,” Dilldine said. “I know that I should also do self exams, but I don’t. I don’t know if it’s fear that I will find another lump or something else.”
Finding the lump was the start of an aggressive treatment regimen. From July until December of 2005, Dilldine had chemotherapy every three weeks, which caused her hair to fall out.
At the time, Dilldine worked as a special education aid at East Elementary School.
“I didn’t have any hair when I went back to work. I was really worried. What are they going to think?” she said. “I wore hats, and most of the kids were great.”
After the chemo, she had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, then radiation for seven weeks to ensure nothing was left.
“I takes about a year for your body to heal,” she said.
As her body healed and grew stronger, Dilldine said each milestone resulted in a strange sense of freedom.
“Each step was exciting, but I was nervous at the same time,” she recalls.
One Jan. 28, 2018, she will celebrate 12 years of being cancer free. It’s a bittersweet celebration.
“There was no history of breast cancer in my family. I’m the one that starts it. You are the one that can make that history for your family,” Dilldine said.
It’s not a legacy Dilldine would have chosen, but her adult children — one daughter and two sons — know her history, so doctors can provide advice about screenings.
And, to help remind others in the community, Dilldine sets her favorite colors aside to wear pink.
“I think Craig does a really good job creating awareness,” said Dilldine. “For the month of October, I wear pink jewelry and encourage everyone to get their mammograms.”
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.