Brenda Kerns is not a victim.
The upbeat, local lives in Hebron with her husband, a state patrolman, and is the first face people will see when they walk into the extension office at the courthouse.
However, in 2000, she was delivered an unpleasant surprise after she made, what she thought would be, a regular trip to the doctor.
Kerns went to the doctor with back problems and he suggested a breast reduction surgery.
“I think my doctor had been on me three of four years to do the surgery and I wouldn’t do it,” said Kerns. “Then this last time he asked and I said ‘yes.’”
When she went up to Lincoln for the surgery, the doctor told her it was mandatory they do a mammogram before the procedure.
The pictures revealed a spot: less than a centimeter and close to the chest wall on her left side.
They prepped Kerns for cancer surgery.
“I was in shock,” said Kerns, whose only relative with a history of breast cancer was a great-grandmother. “I think you go through the steps similar to grieving. But when you finally dig yourself out of the hole you think ‘this is nothing.’”
Kerns endured a lumpectomy, four treatments of chemo and between 32 to 36 trips to Lincoln for radiation.
“You wake up in the morning and decide this is going to be a good or bad day before your feet ever hit the floor,” said Kerns. “God is the main reason I am here. You don’t have anything if you don’t have faith that you’re going to make it through.”
Because of her positive attitude, Kerns has been asked several times to talk with other women who are dealing with cancer.
“I have no miracle cure for you but I have an ear,” she tells the other women. “I’ve been through this. I know what’s going to happen.”
She also tries to pass on tips such as chewing on ice chips while doing chemo treatment.
“Sometimes I think its more how you react to something than what’s actually happening to you. If you were told you had cancer and you went home and moped and didn’t eat right or take care of yourself, you’re probably going to die a lot quicker than if you went home with your chin held high with tears running down your cheeks.”