Cool Jobs: Sports Information Director: A Bonnette Family LegacySeptember 2023
Calm in the Storm: A Survivor’s StorySeptember 2023
In April 2021, Tara Cox, an elementary school teacher of 25 years, received a call during the middle of the school day that confirmed her worst fears – she had stage 2 breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. As she returned to her classroom to read a book to one of her second-grade students, she was in shock.
The reality began to set in when her doctor immediately referred her to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But Tara was concerned about the commute and decided to look for more local treatment options. After doing some research, she decided to begin receiving chemotherapy treatments at Lake Charles Memorial Health System’s Cancer Center.
“I was thrilled that I didn’t have to go back and forth to Houston and could receive the exact treatment here at home,” says Tara.
After five months of chemotherapy, it was time for a single mastectomy. Shortly after the surgery, Tara began radiation treatments, which consisted of five treatments a week for 30 days. This phase of her treatment was a huge commitment. Choosing to do this locally, at Memorial, meant she could avoid travelling to and from the big city.
“I feel like I got the best at Memorial,” Tara recalls. “It was the highlight of my day when I got to see my doctors and nurses. Their personality and good spirits made it possible for me to be positive throughout the process.”
On February 17, 2022, she rang the “victory bell” to celebrate her win in her cancer journey. She is now in remission and returned to the classroom in the fall of 2022. As a wife and mother of two teenage girls, Tara has spent much of her life caring for her family and her students. Her cancer journey saw the tables turn and allowed her to be cared for by her family and the staff at Memorial—and she’s so grateful for that care.
Kim Ardoin, a retired, full-time grandmother and part-time substitute teacher and tutor found out how fast things can change when it comes to breast health. In May of 2021, Kim made sure to attend her routinely scheduled mammogram appointment and was relieved to hear that everything was normal. Unexpectedly, just nine months later, in February of 2022, she noticed some discomfort and itchiness on her breast. She assumed it was a bug bite or irritation. When it didn’t go away, she was persuaded by friends that it was time to see her doctor.
“I never thought it was cancer,” Kim recalls. “I didn’t think breast cancer would show up visibly and hurt.”
Her primary care physician ordered another mammogram, ultrasound, and a needle biopsy. Still unbelieving after tests were ordered Kim thought to herself, “everyone is getting all bent out of shape over this. There’s no way this is cancer.”
When she received the call from her doctor with the results, she was shocked. Uncertain what would happen next, she made a resolve to do whatever is necessary to beat cancer.
After undergoing a single mastectomy, Kim continued her journey to radiation treatments five days a week for 28 treatments. The daily commitment to attending appointments, along with the extra care it took to deal with side effects of the radiation on her skin, were burdensome. However, Kim says she’s thankful to have been able to stay in Lake Charles, where she lives, and not bear an even larger burden of traveling daily.
July 29, 2022, after ringing the “victory bell” at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, Kim’s family and friends gathered for a “Flock Cancer Party” complete with pink flamingo decorations, pink feathers, and plenty of celebration.
Today, Kim is not just surviving, she’s thriving. Guided by her cancer experience, she is passionate about walking alongside other breast cancer patients, accompanying them along their journey. She participates in a monthly cancer support group as a mentor. Kim encourages other women to stay vigilant and pay attention to even the slightest changes in their body.
“You never know when it could be something more serious than a minor discomfort,” Kim says.
Both Kim and Tara participated as models in The Foundation at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital’s Fashion with Purpose Gala fashion show in September 2023. The fashion show lent the stage to Memorial cancer survivors, outfitted in a colorful collection, celebrating survivorship, and honoring those who have been touched by cancer.