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Rasmussen thankful for community support during cancer battle

City administrator Teri Osterman, left, has seen all of the ups and downs that councilwoman Kim Rasmussen is currently experiencing. (Riham Feshir / Enterprise)

Kim Rasmussen woke up one morning feeling her three-year-old granddaughter's little fingers rubbing her bald head, smiling and saying, "Good morning, grandma."

And every morning when she wakes up, she's thankful to have another day to appreciate what life has to offer. A gigantic box full of prayer cards reminds her of the support system she has in the community.

The Menahga councilwoman was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in February. She didn't need to reach out for help because it came knocking on her door.

City administrator Teri Osterman is a six-year survivor who's been holding Rasmussen's hand every step of the way.

"I thank god that I had a Teri in my life who'd also been through it and could give me some guidance," Rasmussen said. "It really is a blessing that our two paths have crossed."

Back in February, Osterman referred Rasmussen to the same doctor who treated her and advised her to "get busy living or get busy dying."

The two chose different treatment plans. Osterman chose a mastectomy and two years later had reconstructive surgery. Rasmussen went with a lumpectomy.

However, Osterman has experienced the same physical and emotional side effects of chemotherapy that Rasmussen is currently going through: From the nausea and heartburn, to the emotional distress of hair loss.

"I tell Kim all of the time 'it's going to come to an end, there is light at the end of the tunnel, just get moving through it,'" she said.

Cancer has given Rasmussen a different outlook on the topics being discussed on the council. She said she no longer focuses on the political negativity and now looks at the big picture.

"Some of the nit picky things that we're dealing with right now at our table are not important," Rasmussen said.

She's able to attend most of the meetings on the weeks she doesn't undergo chemotherapy and works at her insurance agency full-time every other week.

And if Osterman doesn't hear from her one week, she goes knocking on her door knowing that she needs to see a face at the end of a tiring week of chemo.

'Why not me?'

When most people get diagnosed with cancer, they think "why me?" But for Rasmussen and Osterman, they thought "why not me?"

Both said they're fortunate enough to have good health insurance, jobs that would allow enough sick days and family and friends who are always around.

"Maybe I can take this on much easier than a woman that doesn't have those things," Rasmussen said. "Maybe this one is for me."

However, it took a couple of weeks for Rasmussen to start thinking positively after being hit with the shocking news.

"Your world just kind of falls out from underneath you," Rasmussen said. "You realize how vulnerable you are, how you try to be this person that's in control of your life and your destiny.

"You realize that there are some things in your life that you have no control of," she continued. "Once you get through that initial acceptance of it and make a decision on a treatment plan it becomes much different."

Rasmussen's mother was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 60, but she said she was still stunned to hear the news.

"I didn't think I would get it quite this soon," the 52-year-old said. "It's totally different when it's you."

'I can walk this journey too'

The National Cancer Institute reports that one out of eight women are at the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Rasmussen said she's thankful that she got breast cancer and not some other type of cancer with a smaller chance of success.

She will continue with chemotherapy until the end of July and then begin radiation.

"I just keep telling myself that there is many many women that have walked this journey and I'm as strong as they are and I can walk it too," Rasmussen said.

"And I kick her in the butt too," Osterman added.