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home : health : health July 16, 2018

10/17/2017 1:36:00 PM
Woman copes with storms of life
Kelly Webb, with her little dog
+ click to enlarge
Kelly Webb, with her little dog "Seed," maintains an attitude of gratitude despite multiple blows. photo by Jim Cornelius

By Jim Cornelius
News Editor

Kelly Webb has been buffeted by storm after storm in her life for the past eight years or so. She survived a breast cancer diagnosis and mastectomy in 2009, then was terribly injured in a motorcycle crash in 2013. As she was recovering from catastrophic injuries, her husband, Rick, was diagnosed with liver cancer. He would die within months.

Webb freely acknowledges that every day is difficult - very difficult - yet she manages to maintain a positive and caring outlook on a world that has dealt her several really bad hands.

"You've gotta," she told The Nugget last week. "What are you going to do? You can't let it get you."

Webb has lingering physical disabilities from the cancer surgery and from the wreck. Her right arm doesn't work quite properly after the lymph nodes were removed during the mastectomy, and with a broken pelvis and internal injuries from the wreck, she'll feel the effects of that July day for the rest of her life.

"As soon as emotionally I'm ready, I need another surgery," she said.

The physical challenges are ever-present, but she said that the biggest challenge is being forced out of her career in childcare.

"Not being able to work is probably the hardest thing," she said. "Everybody's in a hurry to retire, but when you're thrown into it, it's an entirely different story."

She volunteers when she is able at her former place of employment.

"I do a lot of that and it helps keep me busy," she said.

She also finds a sense of purpose in educating others about cancer and mental health and how to navigate an often complex and intimidating healthcare system.

Her husband's death was an especially cruel blow, one that might have led another in her shoes to despair. And she has asked herself the haunting question, "Why me?"

"I have," she said. "At times I scream it."

But she holds on to the time she and her daughter Nicole, her "adopted daughter" Jessylyn, and Rick spent together in his last days, confronting what the future held.

"Our family group was very tight," Kelly said. "We spent a lot of time talking and discussing how to get through this without him. And he was part of that. He wanted us to continue and help other people."

One thing she wants people to know is that when you are in mental and emotional distress, "It's OK to say I need some help; I can't do this by myself."

It's not always easy getting the help you need.

"Mental health in this country... it needs some work," she said.

Kelly recalled a horrible day when everything became too much to bear and she drove herself to the doctor seeking mental health services. Because she was not suicidal, she was put off and sent to other providers in a runaround that she was scarcely in a condition to cope with. Finally she went to a nurse who had helped her when she got cancer and the nurse helped her find the services she needed.

"You learn to kind of step up for yourself in terms of the mental health," she said. "I need someone today."

Webb says that her travails have given her a greater understanding and tolerance of people's foibles and life's vicissitudes. When you've weathered storms that seem too intense to survive, the small stuff truly fades into insignificance - and so much of the day-to-day annoyances we all face and the interpersonal differences we focus on are, actually, insignificant.

"You learn to accept a lot more," Kelly said.

Webb's demeanor and outlook reflect the hard-won grace she has found in carrying on in the face of profound personal loss. And, on the other side of the coin, she finds that "small" blessings and pleasures have deep meaning.

"Some of the little things in life aren't so little anymore," she reflected. "Seeing a friend and saying hi to them is amazing."

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