Penny holds a special place in my heart.
My first Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Walk (as it was known in those days) was one I thought I’d do alone.
That was in 2003.
A friend who was supposed to walk the 60 miles with me had broken her ankle. I started Day 1 on my own. On Day 2, it was Penny who asked me to join her and two friends so I wouldn’t walk alone.
Thus, began a journey of the heart.
When I reached out to my teammates to share their story for this blog, it should have come as no surprise that Penny was the first to volunteer.
As Penny was my introduction to our future team, it seems appropriate that Penny kicks off our team’s stories.
From the start, Penny and I seemed destined to connect.
- I walked behind her that day in 2003
- Penny was telling a story about her sister-in-law
- Turns out I worked with Penny’s sister-in-law for 11 years
Cosmic connection #1.
As we parted on Day 3, I had Penny write her contact information on the back of one of my business cards.
When the 2004 3-Day rolled around, I was puzzled why my not-yet official team was missing.
- They walked the Avon 3-Day before Susan G. Komen took over the event
- We left 2003 with a promise to connect again in 2004
- One problem – I misplaced Penny’s contact information
After the 2004 3-Day, I received an email from a client.
- The business card I gave the client had something on the back
- My client had found Penny’s missing contact information
Cosmic connection #2.
I sent Penny a Christmas card. She wrote back and shared why they missed the 2004 3-Day.
Penny had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Hearing Penny’s story reminded me that as much as you think you know someone, there is always some new discovery.
I always thought Penny’s participation in the 3-Day Walks was because Sue, her childhood friend and our teammate, was a breast cancer survivor.
Penny’s reason started two years before Sue’s diagnosis.
Cathy: What motivated you to do your first walk?
Penny: My good friend, Bonnie told me about her friend, Linda, who had breast cancer, and she was 36. Bonnie and I would walk every day. I met Linda because we would stop and visit Linda who was too ill to walk.
Penny shared that Linda had an 18-month-old baby and a seven-year-old. Linda was already a Stage Four. It was a time when treatment included bone marrow transplant as the big hope for breast cancer.
Penny: I watched that poor girl go through everything and it was a nightmare. Linda did everything she could. She was Miss Fitness. We stopped pretty much daily and it got progressively worse. It had spread to her bones and later to her brain.
One Saturday Bonnie asked Penny to check on Linda. She felt she was not doing well. Penny found Linda on the floor, unable to get up. Penny ran to get Mike, the next-door neighbor, to help lift Linda.
Linda was rushed to the hospital. Three days later, Linda died. She was 39.
Penny: Here’s the irony in all this. Mike, the wonderful next-door neighbor, we became close as I continued my walks; he got colon cancer. He was 50…treatment, treatment…and died at 52.
Then Sue was diagnosed right about the time that Mike was. I was devastated. The only one I knew with breast cancer was Linda, a young woman who died and left two small children. It was tragic.
It was a frightening time. To see what I saw, it was thought to be a death sentence.
Cathy: And later came your diagnosis. Can you share some of your story?
Penny: You know when things keep appearing in your life, you better start listening. It was your connection to me, and suddenly, this cancer connection.
In July, I visited my doctor about a lump I found. He told me he was not concerned. We could watch it or “you can just have it out”. This is an important part of my story.
It was my 25th wedding anniversary and we had a planned trip to Europe. My doctor assured me he was not stressed and said when you get back, set up an appointment with a surgeon and just get it out. But do not worry, it’s not cancer.
Because of Sue’s experience, Penny was not inclined to just “watch it”. She decided as soon as they got back from Europe, she was going to have it taken care of.
Penny: My surgery was in September of that year. Even after they removed the tumor, they told Pete (Penny’s husband), as he sat in the waiting room, that it was not cancer.
That’s the lesson I tell people. They are probably sick of hearing me say it.
When in doubt, listen to yourself.
It wasn’t until the following week, my doctor called me and said it’s cancer. And I said, What? I’m fine. He said, “No, you are not fine. You need chemo. You need radiation. You need to get in and see an oncologist.”
It Ain’t Cancer
Cathy: I was going to ask you what lessons you’ve learned from your experience.
What better way to end my interview with Penny than with her sharing her life lessons.
You can listen in below.
Is it any wonder why I love Penny?
Transcript of audio
Well, that’s one. To listen to yourself.
I think if you don’t feel comfortable, no matter what any medical person is telling you, get it out.
And the other big lesson for me was − it ain’t cancer.
And we repeat it all the time. In the office, at work, even Pete when things happen around here.
It’s like, you know what? It’s not cancer.
Would you like to share your story? Use my Contact Cathy form and we’ll chat.