A Story of Survival
(Calhoun, Ga) — When former Gordon County resident Mary Beth Krivanek first learned that she had breast cancer, her thoughts immediately went to her children.
At the time of her diagnosis in 2005, Krivanek was a single mom of four children ages 18, 16, 12, and five.
“Dr. (Craig) Box sat down directly opposite of me, took my hands in his, and told me words that I never expected to hear – it’s cancer,” she said. “I know he was talking beyond that and some of it I was taking in, but really all I heard was … I’ve got cancer. I’ve got four kids and I’ve got cancer.”
Krivanek, who now resides in Peachtree City, shared her story during the Gordon Hospital Cancer Resource Center’s Dinner with the Doctors held on Thursday, October 9 in observance of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The free public event included a meal and a wealth of information provided by Surgical Oncologist Dr. Craig Box, Medical Oncologist Dr. Eric Turner, and Radiologist Dr. Courtney Perez.
After learning of her diagnosis, Krivanek said she began to pray.
“I have a close relationship with the Lord and it has gotten me to where I am today,” she said, her voice cracking with emotion.
“When Dr. Box left the room, I prayed, ‘Lord, what about the children?’ Then I thought about that little statue of the hand that is holding the baby and I realized that I’ve been a guide, I’ve been support, I’ve been someone who loves my children. But my children can go on because I’m not the One who holds them up.”
At the same time, though, she said that she desperately wanted to be there for them.
“I want to see them,” she said. “I want to be there to raise them to adults so that I could know they are okay.”
She knew that telling her children about her diagnosis would be difficult.
“I realized that whenever I told my children that moment would be etched in their minds forever,” she said. “My oldest had gone off to college a couple of months before so I went to visit him to tell him about it first so that in case his younger siblings needed him he would know what was going on. We talked and he said, ‘Mom, you’re going to be here to see your grandchildren, I just know it.’”
Her second son didn’t want to hear about it, she said.
“He just got silent on me,” she said. “All throughout my procedures, he didn’t want to think about it and he didn’t want to talk about it.”
Her daughter, Beth Ann, was 12 at the time and the only girl in the family.
“We laid down in my bed one night and I said, ‘Baby, I’ve got something to tell you,’” she said. “Afterwards, she said, ‘Mommy, I don’t want you to die.’ I told her that I didn’t want to die either, and that I believed that I would beat this thing.”
Telling her youngest son provided a bit of unexpected comic relief for her.
“I went to my little guy and I didn’t want to get into a lot of detail, so I told him that Mommy had some stuff inside of her and that she would have to take some medication that would probably make her really sick and probably make her hair fall out,” she said. “He said, ‘You’re going to be baaaaaald? Eww, you’re going to look ugly!’”
Krivanek could only laugh at her young son’s reaction, and quickly thanked God for giving her the ability to address each of her children on their individual levels.
“I had to see what would happen next – to see if the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes or not,” she said. “My parents came up at that point and I also had some very dear friends that supported me.”
Krivanek went to surgery with a positive attitude, believing that her cancer was caught early enough and that she’d be fine.
. “After my surgery, my family physician told me the results, but apparently I was still on the medicine so I didn’t really know,” she said. “I woke up at some point later and my mom was there so I asked her the results. She said the cancer had traveled. I closed my eyes and just let myself go back to sleep.”
Later, Krivanek said