Kelly Joseph will be this year’s Relay for life honorary chair. -- Jason Schoonover/
Kelly Joseph will be this year’s Relay for life honorary chair. -- Jason Schoonover/

Relay for Life honorary chair ready to share her story

Published 10:43am Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Kelly Joseph didn’t know she had breast cancer, even after she had a mammogram.

Joseph is this year’s ambassador for Saturday’s Relay for Life at Bandshell Community Park, and she’s excited about her new role.

“I was very honored that they asked me to do that,” Joseph said.

After losing her father in January of 2013, Joseph had a mammogram that February. It showed nothing, but Joseph noticed changes in her body. After a while, she saw three doctors and was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of July 2013.

Joseph had lobular carcinoma, a type of flat breast cancer that has no lumps and doesn’t always get picked up by a mammogram.

“Mammograms are great, but they don’t catch all kinds of cancer, so you have to be proactive; you have to be your own advocate,” Joseph said.

Relay for Life Chair Linda Baier was glad to have Joseph fill the honorary chair. After approaching several people who were not comfortable sharing their story, she found Joseph.

“She had a strong feeling about sharing what she went through,” said Baier, a Relay for Life volunteer and chair since 1998. “[She hoped to give] inspiration and hope to other cancer survivors who are going through the same journey as her.”

Joseph joked that she’s not afraid to talk, which will make her an open Relay chair.

“Maybe my story will help somebody else,” she said.

Joseph, as the honorary chair, will share her story and then light the flame of hope.

Joseph was diagnosed at 48 years old, and at 49, she is cancer free after she had surgery in September 2013 to remove the cancer. But her life will never return to the normal pattern it used to be.

“Even after the cancer’s gone, you still deal with the after effects of treatment,” Joseph said. “My life will never go back to the normal that it was; we’re still in the process of establishing a new normal.”

Joseph went through eight treatments of Chemotherapy over 16 weeks in Rochester, and six weeks of radiation treatment in Albert Lea. She tries to walk at least two miles every day to help build back her strength and is excited to start work as a receptionist at Austin High School. She and her husband, Danny, have been married since 1985. Danny; her two children, Dylan and Katelyn; and several friends have provided support during the process.

Relay for Life honorary chair Kelly Joseph, left, poses with her family before her cancer treatments. -- Photo provided
Relay for Life honorary chair Kelly Joseph, left, poses with her family before her cancer treatments. — Photo provided

“I had a wonderful support group when I went through all my treatments,” Joseph said. “Every day is one day at a time. For everybody that’s fighting this battle, it’s one day at a time.”

The support didn’t come just from old friends, as cancer helped her strengthen bonds with some friends while meeting new ones.

“Cancer showed me who my real friends were, and it also gave me some wonderful new friends, that have just got on board with me and been with me through all of it,” Joseph said. “I wouldn’t have realized how good they were until this happened.”

Although she made it through her battle, Joseph said there were a few times during the process that she didn’t think she would make it out.

“Even though I was told I was cancer free, chemo really took a toll on me emotionally,” Joseph said. “And then there’s always that thought in the back of your head of, what if it comes back, but you have to push that away. Sometimes during treatment you live about one hour at a time.”

Breast cancer was not prominent in Joseph’s family.

The cancer changed her physically too. Many people don’t recognize Joseph anymore now that her hair, which used to reach to the middle of her back, is now short, and she lost about 30 pounds.

After everything she’s been through, Joseph hopes people can learn from her story.

“I just want people to know that cancer happens,” Joseph said. “I’m a fortunate one that I’m alive, and you can’t give up. You fight every day.”

Relay for Life Schedule for Saturday, July 26

Relay list

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