Malinda Catlett:Three-year survivor
By Sherri Coner
Southsider Voice correspondent
In 2012 when Malinda Catlett and her husband, Steve, were told that she had breast cancer, she immediately thought of Dee, her sister who lost her life in 1999 to the same disease.
“She almost made it to her five-year mark,” Catlett said softly.
Of course the diagnosis was frightening.
“I felt lost,” she said.
But then Catlett reminded herself that she has survived some awful moments.
Not only had she lost her oldest sister, she and Steve lost one son as an infant while the second son died as a toddler.
Catlett knew that her shoulders were strong. She definitely had experience carrying grief and pain around.
However, just as she found support when her sons died, Catlett also did not face one moment of breast cancer alone.
On the morning she was scheduled to undergo a lumpectomy, all four of her brothers and her two remaining sisters squeezed into the hospital room with her husband and Stevie, the couple’s only remaining child.
“I had a whole houseful in that hospital room,” Catlett said with a laugh.
After sailing through the surgery and recovery, she prepared for radiation.
Always one to make the best of every bad situation, she crammed several skeins of yarn into a bag, intending to pass the time by making scarves.
“I have probably made around 700 of these,” she said proudly while displaying several pieces of her work. “I hand them out at the cancer clinic and other places.”
But it was impossible to knit so much that she didn’t get interested in the stories of other patients, especially those who were nearby.
Catlett found herself especially drawn to a grumpy male patient. “When you have your last day of treatment you get to ring a bell,” she said. “So I stayed after my treatment. I wanted to be there when he rang that dang bell.”
By chatting with Catlett while they waited on radiation treatments, the grumpy guy actually got much nicer.
As he left the clinic for the last time he gave Catlett a small pink flashlight, “So I will always have a bright light to follow,” she said.
Last year Steve Catlett surprised his wife by having pink flames and some other pink ink surprises scrawled beautifully on his black tow truck. Catlett found a graphic of Minny Mouse on the passenger door.
“The number 42 was written inside the pink bow on Minny’s head,” Catlett said with a grin. “That’s how long Steve and I have been married.”
Several relatives and friends again rallied for Catlett in 2013. This time they participated in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.
An amazing but rather shy seamstress, Catlett whipped up a pink tuxedo for the occasion – for a male friend, complete with a leprechaun hat.
Not one to be outdone, Steve Catlett is never afraid to wear pink, either. He shows up each year for the walk, wearing pink from head to toe.
When she isn’t knitting scarves for breast cancer patients, Catlett enjoys attending meetings of the Pink Ribbon Connection, a support group for breast cancer survivors.
“I learned through this that I am stronger than I thought I was. And I was told that I don’t have to see the oncologist every six months anymore. Now I go just once a year. So I told Steve, ‘We have to go celebrate. I got a promotion.’”