Herald Journal Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 15, 2002

Breast cancer survivor to host Winsted fundraiser

By Julie Yurek

Watertown resident Bonnie Roy promised herself that if she made it to her five year cancer-free mark, she would do something to help other breast cancer patients.

She is following through on that promise.

Roy is planning a fundraising event Friday, June 21 at the Blue Note Ballroom. All money raised will be given to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation.

June will also mark her five-year anniversary being cancer-free.

Roy is lining up a band, the Butch Automatic Band and there will be a chance to sign up to win prizes. One prize is a treasure chest that was donated by the father of Mary Kay Sanders.

Sanders was Mrs. Minnesota in 1997 and was diagnosed with breast cancer in the same year. She died one year later at the age of 34.

Her father makes and donates treasure chests to any charity that Mary Kay supported during her time as Mrs. Minnesota.

If the event works out this year, she'd like to make it bigger next year by maybe adding dinner to the schedule, Roy said.

Roy decided to have the fundraiser in Winsted because she knows quite a number of local people; she grew up near New Germany.

Also, Craig Campbell, owner of the Blue Note, told Roy that if the event was a fundraiser she wouldn't have to pay the rental fee for the hall, she said.

Roy also wanted to bring awareness to Winsted and the surrounding communities.

"Cancer affects every community. A small town is just as important as a big city," Roy said.

"I've had people tell me they went back to the doctor one more time and they did take the lump out. so I think that even if it only helps one or two women, talking about my experience is worth it," she said.

"The awareness has to be out in the community. If the information isn't coming from the doctor, it has to come from somewhere," she added. "By raising money in a smaller community for it to go towards research, it will benefit all those touched by the disease."

"Statistics say that if a person doesn't know someone close with cancer, eventually they will," said Roy's sister, Charlene Anderson of Winsted

Bonnie's story

Roy was diagnosed with a progressive breast cancer at the age of 34, but the road to identify the cancer was a long one.

It took her four weeks and seven doctors until she was finally diagnosed.

Roy had found some lumps in her breast and went to the doctor to get them checked out.

All the doctors, including the one who finally diagnosed her, told Roy that she was too young to have breast cancer and to come back in a year if the lumps changed in size.

Roy was not satisfied with that answer. She felt something was not right, she said.

"I knew something was not quite right. I went to seven different doctors in seven different towns to get an answer. I just wanted the lumps out," Roy said.

Roy did have a mammogram and ultrasound at the second doctor appointment, but the results of each indicated the lumps were not cancerous.

"I kept thinking, 'How can they prove that it's not cancer for sure, until they take the lumps out?' " Roy said.

At the seventh appointment, after the exam and seeing the mammogram and ultrasound, the doctors told Roy that "they didn't see a reason to have the lumps taken out, and that they saw mammograms every day," Roy said.

After the doctors left the room, Roy kept thinking, "I don't feel any different about this than what the first doctor told me," she said.

"I left the examining room and found the doctor. I told her that I wanted the lumps out. I insisted," Roy said.

The doctor told her that because Roy had already had seven doctors opinions, that insurance probably wouldn't cover the surgery.

"I didn't care, I told her I would borrow money if I had to, just so I would know," she said.

Still groggy from anesthesia, Roy was told by her doctor that she did indeed have cancer.

"I felt relief. Not that I had cancer obviously, but because at last I knew what was wrong. I knew something wasn't right," Roy said.

"With my case, since the lumps were so small, if the doctor had just biopsied them instead of taking them out entirely, it was possible that the needle would have gone a little too far over, which meant the cancer still would have been missed. He told me the only way to have known it was cancer for sure, was to take the lumps out," Roy said.

Roy had a procedure done called a tram flap surgery. What it entailed was an incision across Roy's abdomen, with stomach muscles removed to reconstruct her breast, so she would leave the hospital looking the same way she did when she arrived.

Roy's female hormones also tested positive for cancer cells, so she was scheduled for a hysterectomy after the tram flap surgery. Roy had two children already.

Everything did not go as expected though, Roy said. Her incision in her abdomen kept tearing and she had a reaction to the medication from the hysterectomy surgery.

Roy also had to go through chemotherapy. "I didn't lose my hair though, for some reason," she said.

"Her hair always looked good, and she was pretty up beat, but she still felt sick and weak," Anderson said.

"To most people, losing the hair, that's when they see cancer," Roy said.

"Just because a person looks fine, does not mean they can do everything on their own," Roy said. "I may have looked like myself, but I was sick."

How people look isn't always an indicator of how they are feeling, Roy said.

"If there is someone in the community going through cancer, help them in some way. Bring them supper or watch their children," Roy said.

"Another way to help cancer patients is to call them six months later, when they are done with chemo, because the after effects of the treatment are still affecting the person," Roy said. "It takes a long time to recover."

Race for the cure

Roy also takes part in the Susan G. Komen Twin Cities Race for a Cure. The race takes place Sunday, May 12 at Southdale Center in Edina. Roy has done the race for four years.

"It's an ocean of pink," she said. "There are so many people walking for themselves or in memory of."

Seventy-five percent of the money raised from the race stays in Minnesota. In 2001, more than $1.8 million went to help fund national research and statewide breast cancer screening, education, and treatment programs targeting medically under-served Minnesota women, according to the race brochure.

The remaining 25 percent goes to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Research Program to fund breast cancer research.

Men and women of all ages are encouraged to participate, as well as children.

Children may walk with their families on Sunday or there is an event especially for youngsters. Kids for the Cure is a 400-meter fun run that takes place on Saturday, May 11 at 5 p.m.

The event in June is Roy's way of helping cancer patients and raising awareness.

"If Bonnie hadn't gone through cancer, our family would have never known what it was like to live with it. When cancer strikes a community, it hits close to home," Anderson said.

More info: racecure.org

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