May 7, 2007

'Moms without Moms' team from Howard Lake to walk for a cure

Two mothers who have lost their mothers to breast cancer will walk for a cure

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

“Both of our moms died from breast cancer. That’s the common thread of our relationship,” Susie Lange of Howard Lake said of her friendship with Shelly Smith also of Howard Lake.

The following story was told by two close friends in a surprisingly positive tone, and with many giggles sprinkled amongst life experiences that one would consider sad.

Although the two friends miss their mothers deeply, they’ve found a way to deal with their loss and keep a sense of humor.

“I was only 17 when my mom (Donna Rasmussen) died from breast cancer. A lot of the closure I lacked in my mother’s death, I experienced with Shelly’s mom’s death,” Lange said.

Shelly’s mom, Betty Smith, died eight years ago after battling breast cancer three separate times.

“The first time my mom got breast cancer it was on one side and she had a mastectomy,” Smith said.

“The second time it was in the other breast and the third time it was under her breast implant (from her previous breast reconstruction). From there it spread into her bone and liver,” Smith explained.

After spending precious time together in Smith’s home during Rasmussen’s final days, Rasmussen passed away with both Smith and Lange laying by her side in bed.

“She (Lange) came here the night my mom died,” Smith said.

“I was so young and overwhelmed when my mom died. It was good to say goodbye to somebody I was close to,” Lange said.

The two friends unfortunately have a strong history of breast cancer in their families.

“My grandma had it. My mom was diagnosed at the age of 35, and I’m 37, so that’s kind of scary. Also, my cousin was diagnosed when she was 35,” Smith said.

“It runs really strong on my maternal side,” Lange said.

“So, we’ve seen this more than once,” Smith added.

“We can’t bring back our moms, but were hoping kids won’t have to experience what we’ve been through,” Lange said.

The two friends enjoy children so much that they always seem to be surrounded by them – either by their own kids, day care kids, nieces and nephews, or neighbor kids.

“In our training walks, we pull my neighbor’s daughter in a wagon. We joke we’re going to pull her until her fillings rattle out – being we walk on a gravel road. She’s a little shaky when she gets out,” Lange laughed.

Smith has three children, Emma, 12; Benton, 10; and Lily, 9.

Lange and her husband Troy have two children, CJ, 10 and Chase, 7.

Times have changed

“My mother was diagnosed in 1976 at the age of 47. Huge strives have been made since then in the treatment of breast cancer,” Lange said.

“I was 15 and they gave my mom six months to live. People didn’t even say ‘breast’ out loud, they whispered it. They definitely wouldn’t say it was ‘breast cancer’ because you would be referring to her ‘breast’ and you would know it was removed,” Lange explained.

“The survival rate back then was garbage. The treatments were barbaric. Back then, I’m not sure what was worse – the treatment – or the disease,” Lange continued.

“The treatments were so broad and toxic. They’d kill the whole body and what was left standing is what you’d get,” Lange said.

“Now, they can pinpoint the chemotherapy to match the type of cancer. Each cancer has specific markers so that they can custom build different combinations of chemotherapy,” Smith explained.

“And they have good drugs to counteract the nausea chemotherapy causes,” Smith added.

A walk for a cure

This is the first year the two friends will walk The Breast Cancer 3-Day Susan G. Komen Walk For the Cure.

“Our team name is ‘Moms Without Moms’ and our slogan is, ‘Every child deserves a mother and every woman deserves a lifetime,’” Lange said.

The team consists of just the two of them and they need to raise a total of $4,400 beforehand to be eligible to walk.

“My daughter Lily said, ‘I’m going to get my money together because I don’t want to be a kid without a mom,’” Smith said.

“Every penny goes directly to the Susan G. Komen cancer fund. It’s a three-day walk August 24 – 26. It’s 60 miles and you sleep in a tent each night,” Lange said.

“At first, after I signed up I thought, ‘Oh no, now what have I done!’ They (the walk organizers) really know what they’re doing with this video they send, because after I saw that I was totally motivated,” Lange said.

How to donate

• The team can accept donations on the 3-Day web site www.the3day.org, click on Twin Cities event, then click on team names, and then on the team name Moms Without Moms.

• There will be a fundraiser at the Uptown Bar in Waverly Saturday, Aug. 4 with live music from Red Dot Garage and a pig roast.

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