After pandemic pause, Ky. woman who beat cancer gets to participate in Oaks Survivors Parade

Published: May. 6, 2022 at 1:52 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - Oaks Day may be Kentucky’s day at the track, but it’s also a day to celebrate winners who have fought and won their battle with breast or ovarian cancer.

For the last two years, the Survivors Parade, held every Oaks Day, has been paused, so this year Churchill is honoring the 146 survivors selected to walk the track in 2020. Among them is a Cynthiana woman who fought breast cancer bravely during the pandemic and who has been patiently waiting to take the track and celebrate making it to this day.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and for Kaylan Jarrell, a photo with her family literally describes her life’s dream.

“That was one thing I really wanted, was just be a mom, have a family of my own,” said Kaylan Jarrell.

But for this 31-year-old wife and mother, something tried to steal that away in 2019. After a family trip to the water park, a sunburn may have actually saved Jarrell’s life.

“I was putting aloe on my chest, and on my right side I noticed that there was a lump that I could feel that was not on my left side. At my age, I didn’t think it was anything to worry about,” said Jarrell.

At just 28 at the time, breast cancer seemed impossible, but that lump didn’t go away. An ultrasound and then biopsy discovered an aggressive form of breast cancer.

“My first initial reaction, I just remember thinking to myself I didn’t want to die,” said Jarrell.

Jarrell said she had too much to live for, her fight began. First with chemo, and she saw her body respond.

“By the time we did the lumpectomy there was no actual tumor itself, the tumor was gone,” said Jarrell.

In the middle of the pandemic Jarrell finished her radiation. That same spring, she was nominated for something very special-- a chance to walk in the Oaks Day Survivors Parade at Churchill Downs.

“I feel very, very honored, when I found out that I actually, I got to do it, I was in tears, just so excited,” said Jarrell.

With Oaks Day canceled in 2020, Jarrell got to take part virtually, but this year she is ready to celebrate and be one of the 146 survivors walking the track. She’s done the shopping to get ready for the big day.

Jarrell is looking to celebrate life and all she has overcome. It’s also about sharing her story for other young women.

“Push until you get answers because ultimately it’s your life and you have to stand up for yourself,” said Jarrell.

For a woman who cherishes being a mother, stepping on the track will also be about showing her young daughter just how thankful she is to continue being her mom.

“Cancer is just such a horrible thing and I feel honored that God gave me another opportunity at life,” said Jarrell.

One of the reasons Jarrell wanted to share her story was simply to educate others. She admits she didn’t do self checks, and never thought cancer was possible at such a young age. She really wanted to remind women of all ages to take care of yourself and know your body.

We say congratulations to all the survivors who get to celebrate at Churchill Downs on Friday.

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