Suffolk native advocates for women
Published 10:10 pm Thursday, October 13, 2016
Suffolk native Kristie Fields is a breast cancer survivor, and since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she is spreading the word to bring attention to the disease and what women can do to protect themselves and recover from the disease.
Fields, who currently lives in Newport News, appears in the 2017 Beyond Boobs calendar, featuring breast cancer survivors who are members of the Beyond Boobs support group. Fields credits the group as one of the things that helped save her life.
“They know everything about what you’re going through,” Fields said of the group.
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Her story started in the fall of 2013, when she first noticed a tiny lump in her breast.
“I thought it was a mosquito bite or something,” she said.
She tried to shrug it off, especially since neither she nor her husband was working at the time.
“I felt like I was too young for cancer, and it did not run in my family,” she said. “My husband was laid off. We had banked all our money. Spending money for outside things was not negotiable.”
Fields served three years in the U.S. Navy, so she could have gone to the VA hospital. But she had had previous negative experiences there, so she was reluctant to go back.
By December of 2013, the lump had gotten bigger.
“My mom was like, ‘You really need to go to the doctor,’” Fields said.
She started searching for free mammogram programs, but she did not qualify for any of them because she was only 37 years old, and the minimum age for most of them is 40. She got put on waiting lists at some places but didn’t receive any calls back.
By the beginning of April 2014, the lump was large enough to be noticeable through her shirt, and Fields was desperate enough to allow her family to talk her into going to the VA hospital.
She ran into a sympathetic intake nurse who got her seen that day. She had a mammogram two days later and surgery within two weeks.
The cancer was diagnosed as an advanced stage 2.
Fields started the process of chemotherapy, but right before she did so, she was offered a job at Hampton University as the curriculum advising and program planner. She told them about her condition, and they hired her anyway.
“She had already said, ‘Take whatever time you need,’” Fields said of her mentor.
But Fields was still trying to work through the process. One day, it became too much to bear on her own. She called Riverside looking for some kind of support group.
That’s when she found about Beyond Boobs.
“You get into a different sisterhood,” said Fields, who is 40 years old now.
She said the group has helped her learn methods to survive and thrive through her disease, treatment and recovery.
“You have to constantly meditate and pray and be grateful for what you do have,” she said. “You have to accept the changes in your body and your mindset. Nothing is ever normal.”
Fields has become an advocate for self-exams with her own family. She is forthright with even the youngest girls about the need to check themselves, and she once showed a cousin her scars when the cousin expressed reluctance to do self-exams.
“It’s something that has to be done,” Fields said. “We have to be our own advocate.”
Fields is participating in an event Oct. 22 with the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute, which provides cancer treatment. The event will include a charity ride, cookout and kids’ activities, and proceeds will be donated to Beyond Boobs.
Fields is using her experience as a way to advocate for other women.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” she said.
Fields maintains a website and blog about her story at www.pinkslayer.org and pinkslayer.blogspot.com.