Survivor Feature Profiles by Melissa Karrer, Photography by Phillips Mitchell
In salute of Breast Cancer Awareness Month TOPS is proud to share the stories of 23 survivors.
Meet Rhonda Caldwell.
“I’m great, but they tell me I have cancer.” These are the words Rhonda heard herself saying after her diagnosis in 2010. Moving through the motions, dealing with shock and disbelief, she began her cancer journey after her diagnosis of Stage 2b lobular breast cancer, a type of cancer that only 10% of women are diagnosed with. Her lifestyle of staying active and fit did not protect her from the words she heard her surgeon say, “I’m 99% sure it’s malignant.”
Rhonda had amazing support in her husband, Jim who is an RN at Baptist Health, her children, church family and co-workers. Extended family members and friends were constant cheerleaders throughout her journey, whether it was wearing Susan G. Komen pink flip flops, running races, or providing meals and wisdom. Rhonda shares, “I turned to others who took the journey before me as a patient or a spouse.”
She credits the medical staff at Baptist Health, particularly her Oncologist, Russell Eldridge and Nurse Navigator, Peggy Wheeler, as being her “go to” health experts. She explains, “Often times, it’s a matter of helping me keep my head on straight.” She encourages those beginning their own journey to do their research. “Seek to understand the disease and recommended treatment options,” she advises.
Now, a survivor since 2011, Rhonda looks back on how cancer has changed her life. She shares, “For me, post cancer, I recognize that my life is amazing, but it’s short-term at best. Today is the one day that counts and I try to make the most of it with a joyful and grateful heart.”