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Cancer is a word, not a sentence


Fri, Oct 19th, 2012
Posted in All Features

By Barb Jeffers

There are many people in our area who have been diagnosed with Cancer. It could be your neighbor, your postal carrier, or your child’s teacher. Each person who is diagnosed with the disease faces it in their own way. This is a story about three women from our area who have faced, or are facing, Cancer head on and being that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, they hope that this article will do just that: make people more aware.

Jane Montgomery

Jane Montgomery was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in January of 2009, after finding a lump while performing a self breast exam. Jane said “I knew right away it was Cancer.” After diagnostic testing it was determined Jane did, indeed, have Breast Cancer. Jane knew that she would get through it and said that she “never saw the diagnosis as a death sentence.” She then needed to decide what she would do next. The doctors were very good about letting her know what her options were, and after consideration, a Lumpectomy was performed in February of 2009. In March 2009, Jane started chemotherapy, and in July and August she received radiation treatments.

During this time Jane had an unyielding group of supporters. Having been a high school math teacher as well as Athletic Director in the Fillmore Central School system for many years, Jane is well known by many people in the area. Parents, staff, students, and community members came together and had several fundraisers including selling pink t-shirts and raffle tickets. This was done without Jane’s knowledge, and in the end almost $12,000 was raised and donated to Relay For Life in 2010. Jane reiterated several times how supportive the school was during her diagnosis and treatment saying “the school was awesome.” Jane’s sister, Julie Montgomery, of Cresco, Iowa was also a great support and was there for her through it all.

Now, three years later, Jane is retired from teaching, although she still fills in as a substitute teacher occasionally. This year Jane was the Grand Marshall for the July 4th parade in Harmony, Minn. and also Grand Marshall for the Fillmore Central Homecoming parade. It seems the community is still showing their love and support to Ms. Montgomery.

Jane Montgomery hesitated about being included in this article because she said, “It’s not about me, it’s about the disease.” It is for the same reason Jane decided she would be included in the article saying, “If it helps even one person (to do a self breast exam) then it’s worth it.”

Ann E. O’Connor

Ann E. O’Connor was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in August 2009 after getting her annual mammogram. Ann stated that she was “never really afraid” and she figured if you have it, you have to get rid of it. She underwent a lumpectomy on September 9, 2009, and then received thirty radiation treatments. Since then, Ann has been taking Tamoxifen and will continue with that treatment another two and a half years for a total of five years. Tamoxifen causes some side effects, but Ann said it’s not too bad.

During her diagnosis and treatment, Ann had the support of many people who rallied around her, including the “Chic’s For Life” team that participate in Relay For Life. The team is hosted by Chic’s Pizza of Preston, Minn. The group seems to keep finding new and innovative ways to raise money for Relay For Life such as a wine tasting party, a Halloween ride where they served pizza and stew, and selling daffodils among numerous other fundraising events. There were also many volunteers and local businesses who donated their time, materials, and money.

Ann stated that “her faith helped her get through” as well. She said “you gotta have hope and laugh a lot.” Ann said for people going through a diagnosis and treatment of Breast Cancer they need to take their doctors advice, and she thinks having a good attitude has positive results. Since her own experience with Cancer Ann has gotten very active in Relay For Life and helping people who are going through Breast Cancer in any way that she can. Relay For Life is “wonderful” she stated. Ann has also joined research groups to help find a cure. She receives mammograms for research and is included in Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) research which is funded by Relay For Life. Ann is included in the research in the hope that they can find a cure. Above all, Ann stressed the fact that all women need to get an annual mammogram.

Rhonda Bauer

Rhonda Bauer found a lump in her breast on Friday the 13th of April, 2012. She knew it was not good. She went to the Doctor for a Diagnostic Mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy.  She was told by her Doctor to “hope for the best, but plan for the worse.” The next week she learned that she had a large, but contained, lump that would require surgery. At the age of 35, Rhonda was faced with a cancer diagnosis that would not only affect her life but the life of her husband, Brian, and daughters Cambria, age four, and Caitlin, age two.

A Lumpectomy was not an option for Rhonda. She would need to have a single or a bi-lateral mastectomy. After considering these two options, Rhonda decided on a bi-lateral mastectomy.

She felt by having the bi-lateral mastectomy done, she would not worry about the cancer appearing in her other breast in the future. On April 30, the mastectomy was performed and 22 lymph nodes were removed.  Reconstructive surgery was also done at this time. After surgery, Rhonda learned that 1.8 cm of the 8 cm lump was invasive and 7 of the removed lymph nodes contained Cancer. Rhonda had went from a status of Stage 0-1 Cancer to Stage 3 Cancer. She stated that hearing that was harder for her than hearing her original diagnosis.  

Since her mastectomy, Rhonda underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy, which she finished a few weeks ago, and another surgery for reconstruction. She will continue with a drug called Herceptin through her port every three weeks until July 2013. On Monday, October 22, 2012, she will begin her first of 33 radiation treatments, and after that, will take Tamoxifen for a period of 5 years. Rhonda said, “Some days are hard, but I am doing ok.” 

Rhonda and her husband are both employed at Tri-County Electric in Rushford, Minn. and Rhonda said, “Tri-County Electric has been great, they have been very understanding and supportive.” Rhonda’s family made pink t-shirts that said “Fight Like A Girl” printed on them and her co-workers wore the shirts in support of Rhonda.  Rhonda said the support, love, and prayers she has received from everyone has been “overwhelming.” 

Since her diagnosis, Rhonda said her relationships with her husband, family and friends have been strengthened, and she has learned to appreciate every day. She has gotten involved in Relay For Life in Fillmore County, attended the “Steppin Out In Pink” walk sponsored by Gundersen Clinic, and will be walking in the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk in Eau Claire, Wis. with her husband and his family, affectionately known as part of “Team Rhonda.” 

Always foremost in Rhonda’s mind are her daughters. She read book after book trying to find one that she could read to her children to help them understand what she was going through without scaring them.  Eventually she found a book that she recommends to anyone else with small children who is diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The name of the book is Mom and the Polka-Dot Boo-Boo written by Eileen Sutherland and published by the American Cancer Society, Inc. 

Rhonda encourages every women to do self breast exams on a regular basis, and if something seems different, have it checked out and “be your own advocate.” She stated that attitude is everything. Rhonda has a saying that a friend told her, which she keeps on a piece of paper and looks at often that reads “Cancer is a Word, Not A Sentence,” and those are great words of advice for anyone dealing with the disease.  

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154

10:20:34, Oct 22nd 2012

lavonne.mensink@yahoo.com says:
What a great story about 3 courageous women. It is all about a positive attitude and not letting cancer destroy your life. Looking forward to seeing all of you next July 12th at the Relay for Life in Harmony, MN Our first Captain's Kickoff will be coming up soon in Harmony. Check with your team captain, and be sure someone from your team is in attendance. We all need to enjoy each day as if it is our last. I like to say each morning "Good Morning, Lord" rather than "Good lord it is morning".


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