Can you imagine going to work every day under the weather? How about learning you have cancer, undergoing surgery, and continuing to work each day through your chemotherapy and radiation? It may seem unbelievable, but this became life’s reality for Vicki Penix of Burgin, Kentucky. Just as David faced Goliath, Vicki maintained her life’s mission while battling breast cancer and succeeded.
The Penix family had a history of breast cancer and at the age of five, Vicki experienced her paternal grandmother’s diagnosis.
“After I learned my grandmother had breast cancer, I always felt I would be the next of the Penix women to face the battle,” Vicki said. “So, during the summer of 2005, I attended an event to learn more about breast cancer. When I returned home that evening, I immediately performed a self-breast exam.”
It was in that moment Vicki knew. She felt a lump yet wanted to believe it was all in her mind. After waiting a bit longer, Vicki did another self-exam. Time and again she felt the lump and decided to see her doctor for a mammogram. While sitting in the examination room, the nurse gave the x-rays a pensive look and subconsciously made a deep sigh.
“I got up to see what the nurse was reacting to,” Vicki shares. “She said to me, ‘Honey, go on up there and make an appointment with the surgeon.’ I couldn’t get any more information out of her, so I scheduled the appointment and, sure enough, had a lumpectomy four weeks later.”
In Vicki’s case, 24 is not a television series, but the number of weeks she went through chemotherapy. With a patient attitude and endurance for pain, Vicki went to work each day at Kentucky Community & Technical College. Her heart was not only persistent through her battle of breast cancer, but also through her passion for education. Breast cancer simply made Vicki want to see more women and men learn about living with cancer and how to catch in its early stages.
“I want people to do their self-breast exam, be cognizant, and do them on a monthly basis, especially if there is a history in the family," Vicki noted. "Have a relationship with your doctor and have an annual mammogram.”
Sisters Network Inc. (SNI), based in Houston, was informed of Vicki’s story through her local health department. After being nominated and elected, Vicki travelled to Chicago to attend the 2007 SNI conference.
“It was during this conference I learned black women are not as diligent about performing self-examinations,” Vicki explained. “Also, I learned black women tend to die more from breast cancer than white women, statistically.”
As an effort to inform more people of this finding, Vicki began to research breast cancer awareness events.
“I love the Derby and when I looked at the website, as I do every year, and I read about the Survivor’s parade,” she said. “I elected to nominate myself and asked my pastor and several colleagues to vote for me.”
As another network event of sisters, Vicki was selected and will march for a cause on the day of the Kentucky Oaks along with her sister, Ann Garbin.
“Cancer is not a death sentence,” Vicki profoundly added, “But, it is an opportunity to learn new things in life and it is the opportunity to maybe help someone else.”
Vicki sees herself as an “overcomer.” She wants to interact with women and men who understand what she went through while marching in the parade at Churchill Downs. She wants to spread the gospel of hope in other’s journeys through the sea of pink.