Survivor Spotlight : Kathi May Barrett


I’ve been asked “what would you want others to know about you”. Obviously there’s probably a lot of things I wouldn’t want people to know (like how much I REALLY weigh!). However, I would like people to know I have a wicked sense of humor, bordering on sarcasm (hey, I’m from New Jersey, what can I say) and I am an avid crocheter. I love being creative and I love reading about the Elizabethan era of British history. I have been married to my best bud for 34 years, have two dogs and we all love going camping. I live in the foothills of the Cherokee National Forest in eastern Tennessee. This is me and what I’d like you to know. We’ll those things and this,  I’m also a two time survivor although I never would have used that word to describe myself prior to my PEs three years ago. However, when I was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism for which I was prescribed propylthiouracil. Unbeknownst to anyone including my doctor, I was allergic to the drug and my thyroid was wildly out of control for five years until at 20 I developed a thyroid storm. Only because my parents told me afterwards did I know what I went through. I had glimpses that I could recall: laying on an icy cold mattress in ICU because of a raging fever, riding in an ambulance with my mom to a hospital in New York City, hearing my doctor tell my parents I was dying. Experimental steroids got my thyroid under control enough to attempt thyroid surgery only to have two episodes of cardiac arrest while under anesthesia. I survived, married and have two babies. I didn’t dwell on that episode in my life but understood after the fact it could have turned out badly for me very easily. I was lucky. I figured it was just part of my story and everyone has a story. Then three years ago out of the blue I was overcome with a feeling I can only describe as dread, a feeling that I was going to die. Absolute, abject fear for no reason. As a psychology major and college instructor I tried to understand this feeling, where it came from, what did it mean. Suddenly in my mind I was 20 years old again, trying to come to terms with how close I came to dying and I was afraid. Why? I had survived! Why did that come to mind after all those years? I journaled about my feelings and stayed close to my husband while not telling him what I was feeling and after a while it eased. The next day I woke up with pain in my back and shortness of breath. By that afternoon I was in the hospital being treated for pulmonary embolisms and pulmonary infarction and I think I was the calmest person in the ER. I wasn’t surprised I was seriously ill. The feelings of dread had been a warning, a message. I believe because of that I became a survivor .. again. So what would I want people to know about me? Just this…I may be a survivor but that doesn’t make me strong. It makes me lucky. At times it makes me weak, sometimes it makes me mad. It makes me unable at times to do what I want, go where I want, eat what I want. It makes me sad, it frustrates me. It scares me.

I SURVIVED and that sure beats the alternative.


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