RUPERT — Kazzandra Nelson sits on her couch in her Rupert living room, a cup of hot coffee perched between her knees. It’s a normal Wednesday morning — as normal as it gets for someone who has been living with breast cancer for nearly four years.
Her beaming smile contradicts her condition, given away by the tell-tale scarf tucked neatly around her scalp.
Her message to women is clear, if you find a suspicious lump in your breast don’t put off going to the doctor.
“Don’t procrastinate about going to your doctor if you think you have a problem,” she said. “My cancer probably wouldn’t have metastasized if I would have gone in when I first found it.”
When she first noticed a lump in her left breast, fear took over and she did not seek medical help.
After about six months, it started rapidly growing, she said.
“If the question scares you, the answer is going to scare you even more if you wait,” said David Nelson, Kazzandra’s husband of 32 years. “There is nothing gained by putting it off and it will only get worse.”
After church one Sunday in February 2014 she told David that she couldn’t breathe and he took her to the emergency room, both of them fearing that she was having a heart attack. As the doctor examined her he found the lump about the size of a baseball in her breast.
When the doctor said he suspected cancer, the bottom of the couple’s world fell away.
“I don’t think it was as hard for me as for some women because in a way I already knew,” she said.
Within a week, Kazzandra’s cancer tests came back positive and she underwent a single mastectomy.
After the surgery the doctor knew the cancer had spread to her liver, back and spine and she started a four-month series of radiation treatments.
“Every day we had to drive to Twin Falls,” David said. “It took longer to drive there and back than it took to do the procedure.”
After that, she started chemotherapy, a treatment that has continued since nearly nonstop.
The whirlwind of doctor appointments and procedures takes over your life, she said.
“Everything else is scheduled around the doctors,” David said.
David, her rock, helps her keep all the appointments straight and refreshes her memory when her mind gets muddled from the powerful drugs.
He hasn’t been without his own medical emergencies. He had two heart attacks 15 months ago and a couple of bypass surgeries on his legs, which added to the couple’s level of stress.
David helps make the process of having cancer bearable, Kazzandra said.
“I don’t know where I’d be without him,” she said.
During her last scan to see if the cancer was responding to treatment, they found that the cancer is growing.
As harsh as cancer can be, Kazzandra said, she still finds spots of joy in her days.
“I have to keep fighting,” she said.
She wants to live to see her three grandson’s ages 7, 10 and 12 years old, graduate from high school.
In the chemo lab, David said, it’s easy to spot the people who are determined to fight and those who have given up.
“Cancer doesn’t run me. It doesn’t have me, I have it,” Kazzandra said. “Eventually, it will get me, just not today.”