When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, one of the best sources of comfort can come from other women who've been there.
Ten years ago NewsCenter 16 followed five local women fighting breast cancer. Their stories won a national award and kept NewsCenter 16 at the front of breast cancer awareness efforts in our local community, which are efforts we continue today.
Tricia Sloma recently gathered the women together to see how they're doing after all these years. They're from different walks of life, with a similar goal: surviving breast cancer.
Ten years ago, Janet Doolittle said, “Every week is different you never know what's going to happen. I think I'm getting tired of. I just want normalcy.”
Janet found it. It took a little while, but this Clay High School teacher's life returned to normal following a modified mastectomy ten years ago.
She had a rough time with a common drug Tamoxifin.
“They had to give me medicine to counteract the medicine; I gained 20 pounds and looked like a blimp. They took me off the medicine and my weight went back,” she says.
For Donna Alexander, ten years ago she just wanted to get her strength back. Back then she said, “Maybe I can get my strength back. It does make you tired.
Do things around the house I haven't been able to do and just keep on going.”
That was after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation; these days, Donna is going strong.
However, beneath her confident, fun-loving exterior, Donna is a woman who, even with a clean bill of health, still worries.
“I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Ever since I came out with cancer, seems like a whole lot of other people have been coming out with cancer,” says Donna.
Ruth Szykaly worries too. When she was diagnosed at age 36, doctors aggressively treated her cancer. That left her very sick and her husband and three boys concerned.
“They wanted me to get a Cindy Crawford wig. That was their recommendation but we didn't got that route,” she said, with a laugh, ten years ago. “We've tried to be open and honest with them every step of the way and to communicate what's going on and what it means.”
That was then and now Ruth has reached the 10-year milestone.
“Many, many days, months go by and I don't think about it but you still have those little things that happen and you wonder. I’m getting ready to go for my 10-year mammogram and I'm sure I'll be pretty nervous.”
She is nervous, but excited about the future because her career has really taken off. With the boys grown and on their own, Ruth and her husband are moving to San Diego where she's taken a new job.
These women are a shining example of confidence, strength and a true sense of survival.
Donna says, “You just got to live through it and you do. I saw this through for ten years and I'm going to be around for another ten.”
“At the time I was going through it, you do what you have to do as you do with so many things in your life. And then when it's over, you catch your breath and say wow did I really experience that,” says Ruth.
As survivors, they're ready to experience whatever life has to offer.