By Ann Wooten Taylor
Katina Lane-Fomby is a wife, a singer in the church choir, a businesswoman, a globe trotter, and a shopping connoisseur. Her resume is quite impressive. She worked for 3M for twelve years before accepting her current position with Anderson Corporation in Minnesota. Her love of international excursions has taken her to the Caribbean, Amsterdam, Paris, and Spain. However, her favorite destination is Florence, Italy. Since 2016, she has taken an annual trip to Florence before the pandemic abruptly halted both domestic and international travel. Not only does she enjoy the culture, the food, and the people, but she also feels like a celebrity whenever she is there. Satisfying her Gucci fetish while vacationing in Italy most certainly contributes to that sensation.
When Katina is not living the glamorous life jet setting around the globe, she is a bit of health nut. She has not eaten read meat or pork in twenty-five years, and she works out frequently. Given the fact that she is not overweight, she does not smoke or have any other cancer risk factors, it may surprise you to learn that she is also a breast cancer survivor.
Believe it or not, it all began innocuously enough with what was believed to be a pulled muscle. A visit to the nurse at work suggested what she was feeling was a lymph node. However, the nurse encouraged Katina to visit her doctor. Taking the nurse’s advice, Ms. Fomby went to see her obstetrician, and she was referred to Virginia Piper Cancer Institute in the Twin Cities. However, cancer did not show up on the mammogram. The lump was discovered under her arm. During the radioscopy, the radiologist said, “I see two little knots.” With that pronouncement, Katina’s first tears fell.
That was Friday. On Monday she was told that she had Stage II invasive breast cancer. Half an inch of cancer was in her lymph node and half an inch was located in her breast tissue. After the diagnosis, she met with an oncologist the following day. He candidly informed her that she had to have chemotherapy, and it was going to cause her to lose her hair. Although this news upset her, her Latino doctor centered her by reminding her that her hair would grow back. He further reoriented her thinking by focusing her attention on the threat to her life, “We’re trying to kill the cancer.”
At the time, Katina had just started a new position at 3M training to be a human resources black belt. Though the news was devastating, she was fully aware that cancer was prevalent in her family. Most notably, her mother had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer, and two of her sisters had ovarian cancer. Mrs. Lane-Fomby also had cousins who been treated for cancer. Consequently, the doctors initially assumed Katina developed cancer due to her genetics. However, testing revealed the cancer was not hereditary. On the contrary, it was driven by estrogen. When she was younger, she recalled being told that her body produced a lot of estrogen. She jokingly thought then, “At least I won’t have hot flashes.”
While most people dwell on the physical and psychological toll that breast cancer takes on the body, Katina remembers the economic hardship it also entails. For example, one chemotherapy treatment cost $44,000.00, and she required two drips to kill the cancer and one to block it. Her first four treatments were eight hours long. The physician surgically placed a port in her chest, and chemo was injected into the left side of her chest. Although, Mrs. Fomby endured thirteen months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, three months of therapy, and she also underwent surgery.
After treatment, Katina lost feeling on the left side of her arm, but she is thankful to God that she did not lose her mobility. On the contrary, she was diagnosed with lymphedema in her left hand as a result of the breast cancer, and she has to wear a compression glove. At the time of the diagnosis, Katina and her husband were still dating. As her doctor predicted, she lost her hair in addition to her sense of taste for about three months.
Before the diagnosis she weighed 135 pounds. As a result of the treatments, food no longer appealed to her. Consequently, her diet consisted of very few items, including ramen noodles, shrimp, eggs with cheese, and salad. Her main beverage was chocolate milk with extra syrup. According to Katina, those were the only things she could taste a little. Being deprived of her sense of taste felt like someone had robbed her. To make matters worse, Mrs. Fomby was prescribed anti-nausea medication, and her weight decreased to 120 pounds during treatment. Notwithstanding, Katina finished treatment three months before her wedding. She has been a breast cancer survivor for five years now.
Although she is on a ten-year medication that compromises her immune system, has an MRI annually, and undergoes a mammogram every year, she has never asked God, “Why me?” Instead she decided, “I am going to defeat cancer! Cancer is not going to defeat me!” Katina’s positive attitude coupled with her faith helped her understand that there was a purpose for all of the pain. “Why are we here? Is it just to serve ourselves?” She asked. “We think everything is about us, but sometimes it’s about being able to help someone else,” she reflected. For Mrs. Lane-Fomby, the sentiment is more than just a personal philosophy. It is a God-given assignment. “God told me, ‘Some people don’t believe who I Am, but they are going to see Me heal you. Then they will know who I Am.” It is Katina’s testimony that the prophecy over her life is continuously fulfilled as she meets people as a result of cancer.
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