(Media release from Georgia Northwestern Technical College):

A Georgia Northwestern Technical College (GNTC) graduate who defeated breast cancer is now a mammography technician.

Kim Raulerson grew up in Thomaston, but moved to Bartow County 28 years ago. She and her family have made their home in Taylorsville for the last two decades. She started college, but “life happened,” she said, and she opted to stay home with her daughters.

“I always wanted to go back and finish my college career,” Raulerson said. “About 11 years ago, I was working part-time for a general contractor, the building industry had taken a dive, and our girls were all but grown. I decided that was a good time for me to step out of my comfort zone and head back to college.”

At age 46, she applied to GNTC.

“I had many moments of wondering what in the world I was doing going to college at my age,” she explained. “I have always been interested in working in the medical field. As I read up on the Radiologic Technology program, I decided that was the road I wanted to take.”

She called her acceptance into the Radiologic Technology program at GNTC’s Floyd County Campus in Rome on the first try “Amazing! Truly a blessing!”

She acknowledged having a tough first year in the program, but had no inkling of the obstacles she would soon face. With only two semesters left to complete her program, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I had every intention of quitting,” she said. “How could I possibly do the coursework, clinicals, tests and everything expected from me for the program while also having surgery, taking chemo and radiation?”

She’s glad her GNTC family of classmates, instructors and faculty—as well as her own family—would not let her give up. Her instructors worked with her to enable her to keep up with her coursework and to prevent her from falling too far behind; however, she did not receive any special favors and was required to complete all the coursework and clinical requirements.

“Kim’s treatment consisted of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, which made her very sick,” said Susan Wheat, GNTC Radiology program director. “I’m sure at times Kim felt like giving up on her education; however, she never complained and rarely missed class or clinical.”

Raulerson said she was performing her clinicals at Harbin Clinic when she was diagnosed. The love and support the Harbin staff showed her were essential to her recovery.

“I was supposed to be at a hospital for my last semester,” she said. “My oncologist did not want me in a hospital setting because my immune system was too weak. Harbin worked with my instructors to allow me to stay there for my last semester as well.”

Her battle with cancer was probably the “hardest six or seven months of my life,” Raulerson said.

“Enduring all of this, Kim still graduated at the top of her class,” Wheat said.

Raulerson graduated on time in 2014 with her associate degree in Radiologic Technology and went on to earn a Mammography certificate from GNTC in 2018. She graduated with honors in both programs.

“Now Kim helps other women overcome their fight for survival from breast cancer,” Wheat said.

“Life has come full circle,” Raulerson said, adding that she is now employed with Harbin Clinic Imaging in Cartersville as lead mammography technician.

Raulerson’s education taught her perseverance and prepared her to take on her role as a mammographer, said Rachel Miller, Imaging manager at Harbin’s Cartersville clinic and Raulerson’s supervisor. Miller has observed that Raulerson’s cancer experience has taught her great compassion and understanding for her patients, but has also prodded her to advocate for them.

She educates patients who believe they have a lower risk of developing breast cancer because they have no family history of it about the importance of having routine screenings, Miller said.

“How grateful and blessed I am to have been able to attend GNTC and now to be able to pour the knowledge and wisdom from my experience, as well as my love, support and encouragement, into my patients in the same way I was loved and supported,” she explained.

GNTC graduate Kim Raulerson, a breast cancer survivor, is employed with Harbin Clinic in Cartersville as lead mammogram technician. (Photo courtesy of Harbin Clinic)