It's been a year of shock for Kim Mitchell, whose battle against colon cancer started with a Stage 4 diagnosis after a routine hysterectomy.
"It was like somebody just knocked the wind out of me," Mitchell said, at the Plant City Relay For Life on April 20, at Plant City High School. "I had no symptoms, it didn't run in my family. It took awhile to sink in. I didn't think I heard it right."
Second and third opinions backed up the initial diagnosis and at one point Mitchell was told she was likely to have only six to eight months to live.
Her battle against cancer included an intensive, six-month round of chemotherapy — three times a week, every two weeks — and surgery to remove a foot of her colon.
Then, a "miraculous" declaration from her oncologist that Mitchell was cancer-free.
Again her doctor's words "knocked the wind out of me, this time for a different reason, of course," Mitchell said. "My husband said, 'Can you repeat that?' It's not very common, as we learned, talking to other patients, to survive the cancer I had."
Now Mitchell proudly walks the walk of the cancer survivor. At the Plant City Relay For Life, she was joined in that effort with her husband, Tom, her daughter, Olivia, her parents, Shirley and Frank Outen, and members of her "second family" from Plant City Entertainment.
"It's very, very rare for anyone to respond to the chemotherapy like she did," said Mitchell's mother. "I see it came from the support of her friends, her love of family, the grace of God and her determination and her sense of humor."
Mitchell said he "learned so much" in her fight for life in the battle against cancer.
"I learned that every moment is precious, tthat you should live every moment because you don't know when everything is going to be taken away," she said. "Find humor in everything. Don't sweat the small stuff, it's not worth it."
What she looks forward to, Mitchell said, is getting back on the stage with the Plant City Entertainment community theater troupe, for which she and her family have long been associated, on stage and off.
"I'll be back on stage in December, with a one-woman show," Mitchell said.
In the meantime, she and her husband, Tom, marvel at the talents of their 13-year-old daughter, Olivia, who sang her heart out on the stage at the Plant City Relay For Life fundraiser.
"I wish I had her talent when I was her age," Kim Mitchell said. "At her age, I could barely whisper a song and she can belt it out like nobody's business."
As for Olivia Mitchell, the stage fright was manageable.
"I was thinking it's okay if I don't win, I didn't come here to win," she said of the Plant City Relay For Life singing competition. "I came here to sing for Relay and to sing for my mom."
Her song selection: "I Run for Life," by Melissa Etheridge, a breast cancer survivor.