Kim Mardis had her first mammogram 15 years ago. In the years that followed, the provider research specialist for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee prioritized getting her breast cancer screenings on time.
But when her schedule was busy in the fall of 2018, Kim briefly considered delaying the screening. Past mammograms gave her no reason for concern. She told herself she’d get it when things slowed down after the holidays.
“Then I saw that the mammogram van was going to be at our BlueCross buildings in Chattanooga when my mammogram was due,” says Kim.
The convenience of it pushed her to schedule the exam. And that proved to be a life-saving decision.
A diagnosis that was more than she expected
With no family history of breast cancer and many mammograms behind her, Kim went to her appointment expecting another “no concerns” result. But that was short-lived.
“They saw something on the mammogram and wanted me to get another test,” remembers Kim.
A second mammogram and a biopsy followed. Then she got the call that confirmed breast cancer.
“I never thought it would be me getting breast cancer with no one in my family having it.”
“Mammograms are such important screenings because they can help to detect breast earlier when treatment can often be less extensive and when survivability rates could be greater,” explains Dr. Lakisha Crigler, a medical director for BlueCross.
“Screenings should be done in consultation with your health care provider to determine when you need them, and you should share information on risk factors you may have.”
Taking her next steps
Kim’s medical team recommended a double mastectomy. During the surgery, they placed skin extenders that would be needed for future reconstruction procedures.
The first months were difficult as she healed physically from the surgery and her body adjusted to oral chemotherapy which she still takes. Frequent medical appointments drained her.
“While I was waiting for the reconstruction surgeries, I looked so different than I had a few months before. And the medication caused changes, too,” explains Kim.
Mental bumps along the way and help from BlueCross
Over the course of two years, she had six surgeries. She struggled with a lot of emotions as she healed.
“All you can think about is wanting the cancer gone,” Kim remembers. “I kept going back to the ‘why me’ questions. I was depressed.”
With encouragement from her husband and family she sought counseling through the BlueCross Employee Assistance Program. That made a world of difference.
“I don’t think I would have made it without the help from my therapist,” says Kim.
She also credits her co-workers and managers who came to feel like family during this time.
“BlueCross and its teams, its mental health resources and partnering with a local hospital to bring the mammogram van to our building, that all saved my life,” explains Kim.
Words of wisdom from experience gained
The last four years have given Kim a greater appreciation for what she has. She cherishes every moment with her kids and grandkids.
“I think God gave me more humility and compassion through this,” says Kim.
She wants to use that to be an advocate for friends and co-workers. Kim says she often reminds them to get mammograms and other screenings they need.
“I’m grateful and blessed,” says Kim. “If I can help even one person to get a mammogram that they didn’t want to get, then that’s my purpose.”
More articles on breast cancer
- 8 facts you need to know about breast cancer
- Carla’s story: beating breast cancer, twice
- 7 lifestyle changes that may reduce your risk for breast cancer
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.