Lehigh Valley

In a battle with the "Red Devil," Joanne Kilpatrick won

VIDEO: Breast cancer survivor Joanne...

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - "Hell."

"I was in hell."

There were moments, Joanne Kilpatrick says, when she wondered if she could go on.

But with the support of her three children, her boyfriend, and her work family at Bethlehem's Freedom High School, where she is a secretary, she dug in.

"Between cards from the kids, teachers, it was just unbelievable...It's just all those little things that said, 'I just have to keep going, I'm going to beat this,' Joanne says defiantly. She pauses and then adds, with a shrug, "And I did."

From the very beginning, Joanne's story defies explanation.

She went for her regular mammogram in April of 2013. It was normal. Four months later, she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.

The treatment was aggressive. Eight rounds of chemotherapy, followed by another 32 of radiation.

The drug concoction they used had a name.

"'The red devil,' Joanne says, explaining, "The nurses, when they come to give you your chemo treatment, have to put on additional garb because it can't touch them."

By round six of chemo, Joanne felt she couldn't go on, but she says her support system wouldn't let her quit.

"I had to get sick in order to get well and that's how I looked at it," she tells us.

Before she got better, she got even sicker. She had infections and complications, so she needed five separate surgeries in the span of a year.

But she just kept going, and now, she is four years out from those dark moments.

She shows us a picture of her standing on the beach, and looking down at it, she says quietly, "And this is, where life gets better."

She told us she shared all this, because if story will help just one person, then maybe the worst moments can be turned into the best.

"I don't worry about the small stuff anymore," she says, when asked if there was a blessing that came out of all this.

"It changed me completely. I had to slow down and take better care of myself. It was about finding a yoga class, it was about eating right, sleeping right, it was about going on the vacation I couldn't afford, but I wanted to do it anyway. Because tomorrow's not promised, so I learned how to slow down, and just enjoy life."

Joanne and a team of Bethlehem Area School District survivors are walking on Saturday in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer annual walk, which will be held Saturday, October 28th at SteelStacks.

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