Cancer survivor finds comfort in family and education

Ever think that going through college is rough enough just being a student-having to study, attend organization meetings, go to work and just making it through? Well, what if you had to add a husband, four children, and being a cancer survivor to the mixture, sounds a little more challenging now right? Kisha Wilkinson-Ferrell, a 35-year-old junior public relations student, lives this life everyday.

A native of Chicago, Wilkinson-Ferrell, was raised by her father, her paternal grandmother and her aunt until she was 10. “I was raised in Brooklyn and my dad, his mom, and his sister all lived together in an apartment,” she said.

Wilkinson-Ferrell relocated to Winter Garden, Fla., to live with her mom.

” My mom wanted her only baby girl back and so I moved to Florida in the sixth grade.”

Living with her mom, changing schools and environments, would prove to be very challenging.

“My step-dad was very abusive, and we were in spouse abuse shelters every other month,” Wilkinson-Ferrell said.

She claimed the best day of her life is when she was kicked out of her house at the age of 15. “My mom was at work and he [her step-father] told me to get out of his house and I broke free.”

I didn’t have anywhere to go, so I lived with my best friends’ cousin and baby-sat her four little boys in exchange for room and board,” she said.

Wilkinson-Ferrell’s life became a little more interesting when her mom showed up one Saturday and caught her and her then boyfriend together.

“She caught us and told me your either getting married or your coming back home. He didn’t want to get married but I begged and pleaded with him to, so I wouldn’t have to go back home, and at 16 I was married.”

Wilkinson-Ferrell had her first son, Malcolm in 1987. The marital bliss she was accustomed to would soon turn into a life she tried so hard to get away from.

“My husband started using drugs and I didn’t know it and he started being very abusive; he was very jealous of me.”

Life got even more hectic for Wilkerson-Ferrell. After having her second son, she left the abusive relationship, was working at Sbarro’s Pizza on the Florida Turnpike and was still trying to finish high school.

“My sons’ father asked me to give him the boys so I could finish school and I said okay. I respected him for raising his children and he never abused them,” she said.

After that, she traveled the country.

She relocated to Orlando where she met another man and found her self in another abusive relationship while pregnant with her daughter. This would eventually send her back to Tallahassee. That decision proved to be one of the best she made.

“It is a good thing that I left him because he ended up killing a woman five years later and then killing himself; that could’ve been me.”

Wilkerson- Ferrell began a family early in life, but little did she know that that would be the best way. At the age of 29, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

Wilkerson-Ferrell found out she had cancer when she was pregnant and a routine pap-smear, lead to further testing and a diagnosis. Treatment started after she had her last child.

“In 1996, it came back again, and that is when I had the partial hysterectomy,” she said. Because of the surgery she lost her ovaries.

Starting a family early proved to be a blessing in disguise for Wilkinson-Ferrell.

“I used to get down on myself about having my kids so young but what if I would have waited? I wouldn’t even have kids,” she said.

On parenting, Wilkerson takes the parent before friend approach, especially with what is taught in the home.

“I don’t let my oldest son play vulgar music with cursing in it in the home because I have a younger son and he does not need to hear that” she said.

When asked about her older kids and relationships she said, “my younger son (of the two oldest) brings home really sweet girls, but my other son brings home ‘hoochie mamas.'”

It is important for me to teach my daughter how to be treated ,” she said.

Wilkerson added -Ferrell to her name when she got married last year to Kirklynn Ferrell. “I met him when I was working part time at this gas station and he had a gorgeous smile, ” she said.

After seeing one another many times in the gas station, Wilkerson-Ferrell got off early one night and the rest is history.

“We’re meant to be because I wasn’t looking for her. She is the family that God sent to me,” said Ferrell.

Although Wilkinson-Ferrell lost her ovaries, she was able to retain her eggs. Because of that, she and her husband plan on surrogacy as the next step to complete their family.

“We’ve looked on the Internet and researched cost and it is really expensive,” she said.

They have also thought about other concerns.

“I know that sometimes the surrogate-moms want to keep the babies but she can’t if they are my eggs, and its [the child] not biologically hers.

Timing isn’t perfect for the couple to start the surrogacy process immediately.

Wilkinson-Ferrell returned to school to make enough money to support her family.

Support is always available for Wilkinson-Ferrell from her sister, Omara Coleman of Tallahassee.

“I’m so proud her. I know she has been through a lot and I respect her, if she ever needs anything, I am here,” said Coleman.

Contact Tenikca D. Morning at