Beth Bell’s cancer journey started one year ago this month. After being diagnosed with carcinoma breast cancer on Halloween in 2018, she has battled the disease and is on the road to recovery.
Her cancer was found during her yearly mammogram and now, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she is encouraging all women to get their annual mammogram.
Bell, who is a guidance counselor at Audubon Elementary School, said she always scheduled her mammogram in October because Owensboro Health Outpatient Imaging always has free gifts for those who get their yearly checkups that month.
The day after her mammogram a nurse called Bell said they wanted her to come in for an ultrasound and biopsy.
“Of course, it freaked me out a little bit,” she said. “I put it on the back burner because I was at school and had to go talk to a class of fifth-graders.”
After confirming she had cancer, Bell came back to her job and finished the workday.
“It’s a workday what else am I going to do?” she said. “There was nothing I could do that day. I had stuff to do. I could have gone home and cried but that wasn’t going to do anyone any good.”
From the beginning, Bell has been very open about her cancer with the students she works with at AES.
“From (the initial) mammogram to getting the results confirming I had breast cancer was less than a week,” Bell said.
After the diagnosis, she started working on her plan of attack. She decided to get treatment at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center after several family members had done the same throughout the years.
At first, Bell was expected to have chemo every two weeks, but after her doctor got all of her pathology reports, she changed it to every three weeks.
“She said I have this other medicine that’s easier on your heart,” Bell said.
Bell said this is where “her Jesus” comes into play.
“I have some heart issues where my heart will start racing,” she said. “So the fact that this medicine was going to be easier on my heart was a blessing.”
Once she knew a plan of attack for her chemo, Bell asked when she was going to lose her hair.
“It’s amazing how sometimes we ask for such little things and God he blesses us with it anyway,” she said. “ know hair is no big deal but I really wanted the baby to get here before my fell hair fell out — for the pictures.”
But, two weeks after her first treatment, when Bell was originally supposed to be back in Nashville for her second round of chemo, her grandbaby was born.
“That was my Jesus,” she said.
After the baby come home from the hospital, Bell said her family helped her cut and shave her head. Her son, Dallas, cut the long locs and her husband shaved it.
“I was just thanking God for giving me a fun family,” she said. “We made a hard situation not horrible.”
TELLING HER STUDENTS
Bell said everyone at AES was amazing when she told them about the cancer.
“I would not have been able to continue to do my job if it wasn’t for them,” she said. “The whole staff has been amazing.”
When preparing to tell the students, she said she knew how she wanted to handle it. Since she saw the third, fourth and fifth graders on a weekly basis, she wanted to tell them all in person.
“After an assembly we had them stay behind and I explained how my job is to do deal with bullies,” she said. “I told them I was going to be dealing with a different type of bully and that it’s name is cancer. There were a couple of kids who audibly gasped. You could tell some kids had dealt with cancer and knew it was not a good thing.”
She said she explained that the medicine she was going be taking to help her fight the bully cancer cells was going to make her hair fall out.
When Bell returned to school after the 2018 winter break, she wore a wig.
“Some kids couldn’t even tell I had a wig on,” she said. “I still joke about it. I’ve told them before if they don’t settle down you’re going to make me pull my wig hair out.
Bell’s chemo ended in March and in April she had surgery to remove three lymph nodes and no cancer cells detected.
“It all worked,” she said. “I’m just so grateful.
Bell encourages all women to get their yearly mammogram.
“Prevention is huge,” she said. “Upon receiving a diagnosis, surround yourself with positive people. My whole mindset was we’re not going to worry. We’re going to trust God is going to do His part. Everyone around me took that mentality too.”
Bell said Angela Dawson and her entire staff were amazing throughout everything she went through.
“I was having zero symptoms and it was caught early through my routine exam,” she said. “I’m thankful it was caught early, as difficult as this year has been, it would have been a lot worse if I had waited.”