By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Nancy Krull of Lester Prairie has learned a lot about endurance and strength lately.
Krull, along with her husband, Matt, and 14-year-old daughter, Maggie, biked more than 100 miles Aug. 7-8 for the Hartford Breast Cancer ride.
“Sunday was brutally hot,” Krull said. On the asphalt, one woman’s bike thermometer registered 105 degrees.
“The actual temperature was somewhere around 96,” Krull said.
The ride wasn’t the only challenge Krull has overcome recently.
Last October, she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer.
“Fortunately, it was caught very early, and I didn’t have to deal with chemo or anything,” Krull said.
Treating the cancer wasn’t pain-free, however. Krull underwent surgery in November, and had six weeks of radiation treatments in December and January.
The last two weeks, Krull had to work from home, because of the radiation’s side effects.
“It really zapped the energy from me,” she said. The radiation also caused her skin to become red, blistered, and peeled.
“It’s like a really, really severe sunburn,” she said.
Thankfully, the cancer hadn’t spread outside the duct system.
“The lymph nodes were completely clean,” she said.
Before she was diagnosed, Krull’s knowledge about breast cancer was limited.
“I hadn’t really thought about it much,” she said. There was no family history of the disease, so Krull wasn’t prepared to hear the diagnosis.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting at all,” she said. “I was like, you’re kidding.”
Krull hadn’t been getting exams as often as she should have, she said.
“I hadn’t gone in awhile, and I just knew I needed to get this done,” she said. “It was a really good thing that I did.”
If she would have waited, the cancer could have become more advanced.
“Don’t delay,” Krull said. “Just go do it. It’s a lot easier than the other stuff you go through.”
The National Cancer Institute recommends that women over 40 have a mammogram (x-ray of the breast) every one to two years.
Krull, who is 45, has heard that some women wait until they are 50, but she urges women to go sooner.
“I know a whole bunch of people who would have been in trouble if they’d waited that long,” she said.
After her diagnosis, Krull said she started hearing numerous other breast cancer stories.
“A woman at my office lost her sister to breast cancer, and I also had a classmate from high school who went through it,” Krull said. “There’s just this whole group of people in their late 30s, early 40s.”
Most of the time, breast cancer occurs in women over age 50, but it can definitely happen sooner.
“Some people think, ‘I’m too young to get that,’” Krull said. “I would encourage people to put that idea aside, because it hits both young and old alike.”
Women aren’t the only ones who should be on guard, she added.
“Men can get it, too, and people don’t always think about that,” Krull said. “It’s important for everyone to be aware.”
The American Cancer Society estimates that about 2,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer are diagnosed in men each year, and approximately 450 men die from breast cancer annually.
After Krull found out she had cancer, she began to do online research about the disease and its treatments.
“I found this bike ride fundraiser, and it sounded like fun,” she said.
Krull and her family began training for the ride in the spring, biking about 15 miles at a time, four or five times each week.
“Once a week, we’d do a longer ride, like the Dakota Rail Trail,” Krull said. “It’s about a 26-mile round trip.”
Most of the training they did was on flat surfaces, however.
“Our challenge when we were actually doing the ride was the rolling hills landscape,” Krull said. “More hill training would have given us a little more endurance.”
The first day of the ride, they biked 51 miles, starting at the Mall of America in Bloomington, and ending at the Treasure Island Resort and Casino near Red Wing.
Krull’s 16-year-old daughter, Sally, along with Matt’s parents, Wayne and Mary Krull, were part of the crew who helped with pit stops along the route.
“There were 260 riders and 83 crew,” Krull said. “They had it really well organized.”
There were vehicles along the way to help people whose bikes had broken down or who were too tired to continue riding.
Water, food, and restrooms were also provided every 10 to 20 miles.
The “4 Krulls for Life” team rode the first 25 miles in the rain Saturday.
“I hadn’t really ridden in the rain before,” Krull said, but added that it was definitely cooler that way.
“Sunday, we were on the road by 7:10 a.m.,” she said, adding that they took their time, and stopped for plenty of water breaks. The total mileage for Sunday was about 59 miles.
“We all had a good time,” she said. “It was an awesome experience.”
To prepare for next year, Krull said she will definitely do some hill training, and might consider using a road bike with smooth, narrow tires.
“I have a much better idea of what it’s like now,” she said.
In order to participate in the ride, adults had to raise a minimum of $750, and minors were required to raise $375.
The Krulls easily surpassed the requirement.
“We raised over $3,100,” she said. “It’s a really good cause. The organizations that benefit from it do great things.”
Proceeds from the ride support Open Arms of Minnesota and the Minnesota affiliate of Susan G. Komen.
Krull said she hopes that breast cancer treatments will advance as research continues.
“I hope they find better ways to treat it and, ultimately, a way to cure it,” she said.