Crossing the finish line
How many times have you crossed the finish line? It may have been in a foot race, learning to successfully bake a pie or graduating from college. Throughout our lives, we continually cross one finish line and then look for the next.
Sometimes, we have to cross an unexpected finish line.
An unexpected finish line I crossed in 2001 was beating breast cancer. When given my diagnosis, I knew little about breast cancer or where I'd go from there. My oncologist told me we’d break my journey down into manageable pieces and when I crossed one finish line, we’d head toward the next.
Feeling scared and alone, my family and I began the treatment journey.
I had major surgery in February 2001 and needed time off from work to heal and to have all the required follow-up appointments. I soon learned out of something negative, comes many positives. I learned how many people cared about me and my family. My co-workers arranged to bring food to my house each week – including some great cheesecake – and many of them visited or called.
I had other breast cancer survivors reach out to me and provide valuable information, direction and support. Many of these people worked at American Family. I gained several new friends and a new understanding that no matter what, one is never alone.
After about six weeks off work and a lot of cheesecake, I went back to work. I had crossed another finish line and was looking toward the next.
The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was coming up, so along with friends and family members, I signed up. Three months after having major surgery, I crossed the finish line of the 5K walk as a cancer survivor. A pink ribbon with a medal attached was hung around my neck, and I was given a pink flower. I had never received a medal, trophy or ribbon as an award. Now, I have several medals and certificates as I continue to participate in these walks and other events. One event of particular pride I participated in was the Pink Packer Hat campaign in 2005 sponsored by American Family and the Green Bay Packers.
I did what I could to help others by sharing what I had learned on my journey.
In October 2007, I was diagnosed with breast cancer a second time. It was in my reconstructed breast and was an aggressive form of cancer, already at stage three. I had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I was fortunate that I handled the chemo fairly well and was able to work while going through my treatments.
I successfully crossed that finish line, too.
I have a pink ribbon on my car and had SURV1VOR put on my license plate to not only celebrate beating cancer twice, but also to attract attention to the fight against breast cancer. This has led to several people asking me questions. One memorable experience was in the parking lot of a retail store. A young man and woman approached me asking about my plates and if I was willing to answer some questions. The lady was 32 and had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a beautiful day, so we sat outside and talked for more than an hour. We exchanged contact information and are now friends. She is doing great, too!
I believe that everything happens for a reason. My experiences have given me the insight to help others in their battles with breast cancer. I’m happy to help others cross their finish lines of fighting this disease.
I am on a committee for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides against Breast Cancer, currently planned for October in Madison. I also walked in this year’s Madison Komen Race for the Cure. Please consider walking at an event in your community.
We’ll cross the finish line together.
Editor’s note: American Family Insurance has a long, proud history of protecting dreams, and helping the communities we serve. Our corporate philanthropy program focuses on basic human needs, youth and education, health and arts and culture. Visit our website to learn more about the charitable fund-raising events and non-profit organizations we support across our 19-state operating territory, including championing programs like the United Way, American Family Children’s Hospital and the Steve Stricker American Family Foundation.