Friday Feature: Kristen Wiley
Having her mom wear a wig when she wears her big girl shoes is all that Kristen Wiley’s four-year-old daughter Kelin needs to feel comfortable with her mom’s breast cancer. “I didn’t understand the power of hair until now,” says Wiley, who discovered that not covering her bald head was the one thing that made her daughter uneasy about her cancer. “We decided together that when I am dressed up for work and wearing heels (aka big girl shoes) that I will wear hair. At other times I will go commando.”
Wiley and her husband, Jeff, have been very honest and open about Wiley’s breast cancer diagnosis and treatment with Kelin. “We call the chemo, my super strong medicine,” says Wiley and we also watched together as my eyelashes fell out. I had one last eyelash that hung on longer. We were reading Charlotte’s Web at the time, so we named that eyelash Wilbur,” says Wiley. “When it finally came out, we stopped and had a moment for Wilbur.”
Wiley admits that when she was diagnosed that she freaked out a little bit – especially when she found out how much chemotherapy that she required. “But I have triple positive cancer so I wanted them to give me everything that they have,” she says. She chose the most aggressive treatment and had a radical double mastectomy with reconstruction as well as ongoing chemotherapy and radiation – all at Mayo Clinic where she says her care as been extraordinary. “Not everyone gets As in medical school, but I am pretty sure that the doctors here did,” she says.
To others newly diagnosed, Wiley urges, “of course you will have bad moments but you’ve got to get your mind under control, get your head where it belongs, laugh and suck it up.”
Wiley is also a new runner and currently training for the 26.2 with Donna breast cancer marathon. “A co-worker ran it last year and left his finisher medal in my office for me. When I told him that I couldn’t accept it, he told me to borrow it until I ran the race myself,” she says.