Powering through the pandemic: Kathy Massey and her breast cancer journey

Kathy Massey, a secretary of eight years at Northwest, was diagnosed with breast cancer sometime in 2019. Almost instantly, her daily routines shifted drastically. Between doctor appointments, daily radiation, weekly/bi-weekly chemo treatments, surgery, and the added bonus of a broken ankle, free time for Massey is scarce. 

As a breast cancer patient, she’s bound to be asked repetitive questions. 

“I don’t mind the question[s] as I know people are just concerned for me,” Massey said.

Her immune system is compromised, which is a side effect of chemotherapy. She had lab work done every time she received chemo, however, if her numbers were not in the “safe” range, she wasn’t able to receive chemo that day. “My red and white blood count, potassium levels, ect. became very low…”she said. Luckily, she only had to miss one chemo, and received five blood transfusions and three potassium infusions to raise her counts for the next chemo. This makes COVID a more viable possibility if she isn’t careful. If she is to catch it, it could affect her body’s ability to fight off the virus. 

 Despite her low immune system, especially during the current pandemic, Massey is glad to be back at work. 

 “I would much rather be working in person than working from home,” Massey said. “I enjoy having a place to come to every day…” 

She said that she worked from home during the initial shut down, which was convenient since she was finishing chemo and was very sick. So, physically going back to work would have been proven difficult for her. Funnily enough, the pandemic “worked to her benefit,” as she puts it. 

Massey is as careful as possible, wearing a mask and washing her hands often. 

“…[W]e require everyone who comes in the building to wear a mask and have temperatures checked,” Massey said, explaining the required procedures for any and everyone who enters the building.

“Ashley [Carpenter] greets most visitors so I don’t have to be exposed to any more people than necessary.” 

Kathy Massey, Northwest office

Besides the weighing tasks for health safety while in the workplace, Massey has a few activities that are the highlight of her job. She says that she enjoys putting together the monthly parent newsletter, as well as planning staff and student recognition events. She is the resident, “party planner” she explained. 

Massey’s current prognosis is that she is in remission, which means there is no evidence of disease at this time. The chemotherapy shrunk the tumors, and the surgery removed the small amount of tumor that was left. Hopefully, the radiation eradicated the residual cancer cells as well. She is currently receiving her final pair of immunotherapy treatments that boost her body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. She plans to continue with her work. 

The faculty and staff at Northwest recently donated money to both her and Crystal Firestone, a special education teacher who is undergoing cancer treatments as well. 

Massey continues to fight for her health, all while happily in attendance at her job in the Northwest main office. “I love my job and the people I work with!”