While a fixture in Boyne City for many years, Kathy Helsley is best known for the hard work she puts in at the Boyne Area Free Clinic.
Born and raised in Boyne, Helsley spent her high school years working on the year book, French club, gymnastics, softball, and serving as her class vice president.
“They didn’t have as many sports for girls back then,” said Helsley.
Helsley graduated from Boyne City High School in 1973 as the Valedictorian of her class.
“My parents also both graduated from BCHS,” she added.
Following high school, Helsley attended Central Michigan University for a year before moving to Florida.
On her way back to Michigan, she met her husband and in 1977, sought a job back home in Boyne.
“A month after we got married, I took a job with Doc (Mansfield) at the Boyne Valley Medical Clinic and have been working with him since then.
“I always thought about getting a nursing degree, but realized that it wouldn’t have helped with what I was doing,” she said.
Since then, Helsley has learned medical billing, taken classes in phlebotomy (blood drawing), and even learned to take x-rays.
“I’m the only one who can do x-rays at the clinic at this point,” she added.
Helsley’s life changed, however, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003.
“My oncologist didn’t give me a great chance, as it had already spread to my lymph nodes,” said Helsley.
But, as it turns out, things aren’t always as they seem.
Helsley’s cancer went into remission, and her prognosis has remained good.
“It isn’t technically cured, but now that it’s in remission, it may never come back, and I don’t believe it will.”
Helsley attributes her recovery and progress to her first granddaughter.
“I swear I am alive because of my granddaughter Bella, who was a few months old when I was diagnosed,” she said.
“She gave me something else to focus on and something to love.”
Years later, she now works for the Boyne Area Free Clinic, and has had to become a jack of all trades.
Along with being the primary contact person for all of the clinic operations, day to day Helsley handles staffing, scheduling, and the training of volunteers.
“On Fridays, I float around so I can answer questions and help where needed,” she added.
While the clinic operates, Helsley handles the x-rays, doctor referrals, many of the blood draws, and works to find more affordable medication options and samples to help patients.
When asked, Helsley said that her favorite part of the clinic is simple: helping.
“I love helping people and, these days, everyone needs help sooner or later.
Our patients are no different than anyone else, including all of us.” she said.
But the help, apparently, works both ways.
“Helping them until things turn around is as much a blessing for all of us as it is for the patients,” she added.
And it’s not just her, there are many more.
“Every one of my volunteers leaves the clinic feeling better than they came. They all love it, she added.”
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