Paul McKibben reports:
Kim Antrican already had enough pressure.
Mother of two teens. Wife. Director of the Warren County board of elections during a presidential election year in the battleground state of Ohio.
Then in July, Antrican felt a lump in her chest while in Florida for training. She learned she had aggressive breast cancer and in August underwent a double mastectomy. She started chemotherapy Sept. 25, a week before early voting began.
“This could not have happened at a more inconvenient time if you’re looking at it by the election time frame,” she said. “(But) it is what it is, and God will take care of the big things that are out of my control.”
Antrican returned to work full-time 13 days after her Aug. 14 surgery. She works 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. five days a week and has logged two 12-hour Saturdays since she returned to work.
Working has helped balance a life that was filled with medical appointments.
“One or two days out of my week, I’m off having a test done … or I’m off seeing a doctor,” she said.
“So here was my only normal.”
The election calender is getting busier as the big day draws near. Antrican’s cancer treatment continues, too.
She’ll undergo chemotherapy for the next year, going every three weeks. Radiation treatment – five days a week for five weeks – will start in January or February.
Antrican, 44, of Lebanon delayed starting chemotherapy for a week because of work. She was scheduled to have a chemotherapy session on Election Day.
But that is postponed until the following day. She plans to work every day that she can because elections are “in my blood.”
“I don’t care who wins,’’ she said. “My goal is that this election comes off fair, honest and accurate.”
Antrican is a Republican. The deputy director must be of the opposing party. In this case, it’s Brian Sleeth.
Together with eight other employees and a four-person board, they’re responsible for conducting elections in the state’s second-fastest-growing county. The Nov. 6 general election is the first one for Antrican and Sleeth in their respective jobs, although both have prior experience in the office.
“My cancer is an annoyance. … I feel like I’m letting other people down because I’m not performing at 100 percent,” she said. “I try to be here as much as I can.”
Sleeth was in Florida at the same training session as Antrican when his co-worker discovered the lump. He learned about it the next day.
He said Antrican is open about her experience, including losing her hair. He’s even seen her wig book.
“She’s very determined to do the job and finish it out until the very end,” he said. “We’re in constant contact with each other outside of work and we’ve been working real well together to get this election under our belts.”
After diagnosis, felt betrayed by body
Doctors recommended the double mastectomy. Although the cancer was in her right breast, doctors said she faced a risk that her cancer would be on the left side in one to three years if that breast wasn’t also removed.
“When you find out, the first thing you think of is you’re betrayed. Your body’s betrayed you,” she said. “So you want rid of it. So I kind of didn’t care.”
Antrican’s cancer had also spread to her lymph nodes. Dr. Gregory Siewny, Antrican’s obstetrician and gynecologist, said Antrican will need to be monitored her entire life.
Dr. Cheryl Skinner, Antrican’s Lebanon oncologist, said Antrican has the right attitude and has done well. Skinner said she has patients who undergo chemotherapy and maintain their work and family lives.
“I think the busier they are they tend to do better” with their treatment, Skinner said.
‘God’s got me through all this’
Antrican’s Pentecostal faith has helped her. She attends Life Tabernacle in Lebanon twice a week.
“I’m staying very positive, but I’m very religious,” she said.
“God’s got me through all this.”
Kim and her husband, Todd, have two children. Seth is a senior at Lebanon High School, and Stefanie is an eighth-grader at Lebanon Junior High. They’ve been married five years. (Todd adopted Seth and Stefanie.) Antrican’s mother-in-law is a 14-year breast cancer survivor.
Her pastor, Todd Green, said he’s known Kim since she was a single mother – and she was amazing at that, he said.
“She’s an inspiration to everybody,” he said.