EL DORADO, Ark. (KTVE/KARD) — A mother and wife in El Dorado has been battling stage 4 breast cancer for 5 years and she’s sharing her story during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“My first thoughts were how could this be happening,” Kerry Murphree remembered when she first received the diagnosis from doctors. “But I’m here 5 years later.”
Then, those were discouraging words for her as she was supporting her husband, Justin, who was battling with kidney cancer.
Kerry is no stranger to the medical field but quickly found herself needing care. She suffered pain for months and says she “blew it off” for awhile but that pain eventually became unbearable.
After over a month of taking medications and having tests ran, that’s when doctors discovered she had cancer and that it had spread to all of the bones in her body. She immediately started chemotherapy.
“My shoulder, arms, legs, hips, ribs, pelvis, just about everywhere,” she said.
Kerry has a teenage daughter, Rachel. The thought of possibly never seeing her only child go to prom, graduate college or get married ran rampant in her mind though she said she continued to fight through the toughest of days.
She eventually began to lose the hair on head, eyebrows and eyelashes and the chemotherapy and IV treatments took every little bit of strength she had away.
“Mentally it’s very devastating,” she said. “You try to put on this facet and pretend like your strong but really behind the scenes, it just takes everything from you both mentally and physically.”
She and her family spent many days on the road to and from Hot Springs where her oncologist was located. She spent 17 days in the hospital after two rounds of chemotherapy when she became septic from port infection.
In November 2015, she had a hysterectomy. Shortly after, she had to have a vertebrae repaired. She’s been on countless medications and has had several rounds of chemo and oral agents.
Sometimes, she spent more hours traveling than actually being inside of the doctor’s office particularly when she was asked to come in for blood work or injections.
Kerry says not only is having cancer a drain on the body and mind but all of the expenses is just another added level of stress.
“My medication is now $6000 a month for 30 pills. That is just insane. Try to imagine paying for that out of pocket,” she said.
Kerry was fortunate to have insurance that would help cover most of the costs. Her job was also very supportive and flexible while she was in and out of work. Sadly, that’s not the reality for most people.
“With some that’s not the case. Some people end up losing their jobs because they have been off so much due their illness,” she said. “If you lose your job you’re really talking about a financial burden.”
But a local agency, the Team Corrie Cancer Foundation aids in alleviating that stress by awarding a one-time grant to cancer patients. Kerry was the 12th recipient of the grant which has been helping those who are fighting cancer in Union County since 2014.
Then, Kerry received $500. It wasn’t until a few years ago the agency began awarding $1,000 grants. That money didn’t help with all of Kerry’s medical expenses but knowing she had support from those in the community made all of the difference.
“It was just like a breathe of fresh air to know you had some help,” she said.
The Team Corrie Foundation is a non-profit organization established by family and friends of Corrie Gross Bechtelheimer. She suffered from breast cancer for two years before passing away in 2014.
Bechtelheimer’s mother, Sandy Gross, is the president of the organization. Her sister, Kristie Lowery, was also diagnosed with it but has since defeated the disease and serves as the vice-president.
The agency received so much support from the community during their cancer journey’s and wanted to do the same for others.
“We thought we wanted to do something to help the people of Union County,” Gross said.
So far, they have awarded 154 cancer patients with these grants. Most of the funding is raised from the annual Paint the Town Pink fundraiser but it has been canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Instead of the annual 5k walk/run, they are hosting a shop for a cause fundraising event. All of the proceeds will go directly to patient fighting any type of breast cancer.
“We don’t have expenses, salaries or office expenses so all of the money will go to those fighting cancer, Gross said. “We hope one day to be able to increase the amount.”
This event will last until the end of October. The Team Corrie Cancer Foundation will have a table set up this Friday and Saturday at All About Flowers. They will be selling masks and t-shirts from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.