Rachel Kiper relaxes on one of the lounging chairs at the Leitchfield Aquatic Center, watching a few children from church after a Beachgrove Church revival meeting that day.
After going into remission from her second bout with cancer in April 2015, Kiper, a teacher, wife, and mother of three, credits her faith and trust in God for helping her through two rounds of cancer.
On March 31, 2014, Kiper was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a disease known for being extremely aggressive, when at Twin Lakes Regional Hospital.
“I didn’t believe it the first time. I was so sick, but I would never have imagined cancer,” said Kiper, who had bruises covering her legs and multiple lymph nodes on her neck at the time.
When admitted in Louisville’s Norton Hospital, Kiper felt so exhausted that she slept for two weeks, contracting pneumonia as a result. Blood tests showed that 83 percent of her cells had cancer.
“The first round of chemo was horrible. When you’re under 40, they just blast you, because they know you can handle it,” said Kiper.
After going into remission in August of 2014, Kiper started teaching at Wilkey Elementary School again. But, in 2015 in January, her cancer had come back. This time, however, she had expected the diagnosis after seeing that her platelets had dropped when looking at her blood work.
Kiper was at the school when she saw the e-mail with her blood work. She found a few friends in the school and an empty room.
“We got on our knees and prayed. I felt this peace and I thought that meant God was telling me the cancer was not coming back. But later I realized it meant He would help me get through it,” Kiper said.
This feeling of peace helped Kiper during her lowest moments, “I would think, He gave me peace.”
During both bouts of cancer, the community rallied around Kiper with their support.
“People were so wonderful to us, we’d get cards saying ‘I don’t know you but I hope you get better,’” said Kiper. “At the hospital my walls were covered with cards. The doctors and nurses were amazed, and I said, ‘That’s because you don’t come from a small town.’”
Multiple benefits were held during this time to earn money for Kiper and her family, who didn’t know about the first benefit that was held.
“At first, it was so embarrassing, because we had never needed help before. But when the bills came in, I was thankful, I just didn’t know,” said Kiper.
Her second bout of cancer brought new challenges when the chemo therapy wouldn’t take effect. After taking a C-CIT, Kiper tested positive, meaning that while her body was not fighting her leukemia, her body was fighting the chemo in her system. This left Kiper no choice but to get a stem cell transplant at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, something that doctors had been trying to avoid.
After the stem cell transplant on April 21, 2015, her cancer went into remission again, but the fear of the cancer coming back is always there.
“It’s wonderful, but at that point you wonder, is it really over? Anytime I get a bruise, or a cold coming on, it scares me,” said Kiper. “I think ‘Oh it’s back,’ but I feel like that’s everyone with any type of cancer.”
Despite this, the only problem lying ahead of Kiper now is getting her infant immunization shots again because the transplants she received wiped all of them out of her system. After getting these shots, Kiper will be going back to work at Wilkey Elementary School teaching third grade in the fall.
“I’ve never taught third grade before, but I’m excited,” Kiper said.
When speaking about those who are still going through or are about to begin their struggle with cancer, Kiper has some advice.
“Stay close to God and if you’re tired, don’t feel guilty for being tired, or when you can’t do something, because you have to take care of yourself,” said Kiper.