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Kim Alston is a Human Resources specialist for the Women’s Center at Einstein. Like many healthcare professionals, Kim spends her days taking care of and supporting others. For many years Kim had lost sight of the importance of taking the time to care for herself. Today, Kim is a strong advocate of annual health screenings, specifically breast cancer screenings. Kim recognizes the importance of screenings, not only because she’s a healthcare professional, but also because they save peoples’ lives.
For many years life just got busy for Kim. Her family and job were her top priorities, and her own health slipped off her radar. Kim began to put off her annual breast exams. She would reschedule the exams as “more important” tasks got in the way and once or twice eventually turned into years. For eight years, Kim failed to make time to receive regular breast examinations or mammograms.
In December, 2007, Kim took a break from the holiday rush to relax. She sat down to watch some television and noticed soreness and tenderness in her left breast. When Kim checked herself, she noticed a small lump. Right away, Kim made an appointment to see her doctor. A mammogram was ordered immediately. Even though no abnormality was seen, the doctors did not stop there. An ultrasound was performed which did show the mass, and an MRI was also obtained. After a biopsy was performed, she found out that she had breast cancer.
"I was in shock, disbelief, denial and then disappointment in myself. I wanted to rewind time and go back eight years to see what I was doing. What was so important that I could not take an hour break from my husband, kids and my job to get a check up?"
After her diagnosis Kim went through tests to find out if the cancer had spread and to determine the stage of the disease. After reviewing her options, she decided to have a double mastectomy and had a skin sparing surgery with immediate reconstruction. Following the surgery Kim required three months of chemotherapy.
While in therapy, Kim was a spark of light and joy for other chemotherapy patients in the center. She loves salsa music and dancing, so when it was her week for chemotherapy, she’d bring in salsa music to play and lift everyone’s spirits. Kim was so appreciative of the care and support she received at Einstein’s Cancer Center.
"People help other people get through these situations. And in therapy we could just be sick, or sad, or angry, and no one would look at you differently. If you were having a bad day, it was ok," said Kim.
It’s been nearly two years since her diagnosis and Kim shares her experience with many. She has learned so much from her own experience that she is compelled to be an advocate for annual health screenings for women.
“I got a second chance, I got to live again,” says Kim, “...I understand that life is hectic at times, but nothing is more important than living. If you wait, it may be too late. Health screenings are important. I can’t emphasize it enough.”
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