From Prom Dress to Diagnosis: Kathleen Stafford’s Cancer Journey

StaffordsKathleen Stafford participated in her first 24 Foundation event in August 2016 after hearing about the event from her father, who had participated the year prior. 24 Foundation became vehicle for Kathleen to give back to after her own cancer fight. 

In March 2014 while prom dress shopping, Kathleen’s mother noticed swollen lymph nodes around her neck, shoulder and collar bones. The next day she visited her pediatrician, who then sent her to John Hopkin’s emergency room for further tests. Later that evening, Kathleen received the diagnosis that at the age of 16 she had stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“My initial feelings were shock,” said Kathleen Stafford, first time rider and cancer survivor. “It was hard to grasp that I actually had cancer. You never think that something so devastating could really happen to you.”

Kathleen immediately began four months or 6 cycles of chemotherapy and one month of radiation, with PET scans scheduled between treatment cycles. The first two cycles of chemotherapy started with a basic outpatient treatment then the next two cycles were changed to a more aggressive inpatient treatment. The last two cycles went back to the outpatient treatment she had initially started with. Then Kathleen had a month reprieve from all treatment before starting radiation.

In January 2015, Kathleen was declared cancer-free. She now is monitored every six months with routine x-rays to look for possible signs of reoccurrence. As a result of her cancer experience, Kathleen aspires to be a nurse to give others the patient-centered care she received.

“My experience with cancer has taught me how to handle surprises that life will throw at you, and how to become a stronger person because of what I have been through,” Kathleen said. “I wish I had joined a support group while I was in treatment. I didn’t have anyone I could really talk to about what I was going through.”

Aside from giving back by going to school to be a nurse, Kathleen participated in 24 Foundation for the first time this year. The fun, exciting atmosphere of the community event is what she says will keep her coming back to participate and fundraise.

“It’s amazing how many people show up to bike all day and night,” Kathleen said.  “I’m not a big cyclist, but I was eager to get back on my bike and keep doing laps.”