BY JACLYN ROSE –
A California native, Kelli Hiaumet, along with her family, moved to Mena after completing the fourth grade. “Moving to Arkansas was culture shock at first but it was a good thing, everything has changed so much since back then. I remember going to the old drive-in theater, I worked in the concession stand and I was in the class that first attended school in the old high school, which is now the middle school,” Hiaumet explained.
As a teenager, Hiaumet’s family moved to the county line and there she met her husband, Bill. “We met when I attended school in Oden for a couple years but we didn’t date until my senior year of High School. He says he was too shy to ask me out, but I don’t know about that,” said Hiaumet with a grin. She and Bill were married less than two weeks after she turned 18 in 1979, and this November will have been married for 35 years. “Marriage requires lots of compromise,” explained Hiaumet, “My husband and I were raised very differently and everyone has fusses but if you love someone you will forgive them.” The Hiaumet’s have three children: Nicole, Dustin, and Joe, and five grandchildren and Hiaumet is quick to tell you she adores her family and loves being a mom very much.
In May of 2013, Hiaumet, very busy moving her home from Nunley to Opal, went for her yearly exam with Dr. Carlos Rocha in Mena.
“I knew I felt something in my right breast but I was so busy and assumed it was stress from moving and did not think much about it,” said Hiaumet.
“I’ll never forget Dr. Rocha yanking off his gloves and throwing them in the trash and asking me why I didn’t come in sooner, he said, ‘people die from this every day.’” Very quickly, Hiaumet had a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound and was sent to UAMS in Little Rock for a biopsy. “My mom passed away from breast cancer when she was my exact age but I thought it would skip me. It never crossed my mind that I would also have it,” Hiaumet said. On June 11, 2013, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer and a port for chemotherapy was put into her arm on June 17. “It all came together very fast and I began my treatments. The chemo was very strong and it made me very sick but by the 8th treatment the tumor was gone!”
After successfully treating the tumor, Hiaumet began the next portion of her journey and underwent a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction on October 10, 2013. The surgery was expected to last a little over four hours and ended up lasting over ten but was considered a success. However, after having her drains removed on November 8, Hiaumet became very ill and was readmitted to UAMS with a bacterial infection that would keep her in the hospital until close to Thanksgiving. On May 12, 2014, close to one year since the origin of her diagnosis, Hiaumet will undergo her last surgery to complete her reconstruction.
Through the last year, Hiaumet has found solace in many different family members, friends and hobbies. According to her, “My husband has been the absolute best. He went from not doing dishes or vacuuming or cleaning to doing all of it. He did all the cooking and he took really good care of me. My children and family have been so supportive and my friend, Debra Parnell, has been a rock, as a survivor herself she told me, ‘you do what the doctor tells you to do and you will be fine.’” Hiaumet also spent as many of her good days as she could outside, “I love to landscape and garden. Flowers just make me so happy. I love to go out and check for baby buds every day.” Clarice’s Room of Hope and Teena Brown, Hiaumet’s good friend and classmate, also provided so much support, through their monthly meetings and in tangible ways, such as donating gas cards for the multiple trips to Little Rock that had to be made for treatment.
Hiaumet has come through all the events of the last year with a smile on her face and a positive story of survival to share with all.
“I love this town. The people are great and I loved having my kids in a small town. I also love my job with UPS and all the friends I have made. It is amazing to me the people on my routes who sent me cards. This is a wonderful place,” Hiaumet said with a contented smile.