By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN With a sister and aunt who died from cancer, and another sister who is a cancer survivor, Debbie Bickmann of Winsted knew not to ignore the lump she found in her breast in July.
She made a doctor’s appointment right away, and tests quickly confirmed her suspicion.
“Many women think they don’t have time to go in, or fear sets in, and they don’t want to get checked,” said Bickmann’s sister, Bonnie Roy, of Waconia. “What they need to know is, six months can make a big difference in the outcome.”
In Bickmann’s case, a biopsy was performed the day of her appointment, and she had a double mastectomy Aug. 8. Her third surgery took place later on, to help the area heal better. Bickmann’s fourth procedure involved insertion of a port, which is being used for chemotherapy.
Benefit Nov. 2
A benefit to help with medical expenses is planned Friday, Nov. 2 at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted (320 Third St. S) from 6 to 8 p.m.
The event will also be a birthday celebration for Bickmann, who is turning 49 Nov. 1.
The $20 dinner will include chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, and a dinner roll. Beer and pop will be served free from 6 to 7 p.m. Kids’ meals (ages 12 and under) for $3 will feature chicken drummies, french fries, and a beverage. To RSVP for dinner (no later than Friday, Oct. 26), call Roy at (952) 679-4213.
A silent auction will take place at the benefit until 7:30 p.m. To learn more, contact Amanda at (320) 237-5522.
Grateful for support
Bickmann said she greatly appreciates the support she’s received, because the past few months have been challenging.
She’s on her third chemo treatment (out of eight), and is experiencing fatigue and hair loss.
Luckily, Bickmann was able to get a high-quality wig from It’s Still Me, a studio in St. Louis Park founded by a breast cancer survivor.
“She makes it personal, and you’re the only one there at the time,” Bickmann said.
Since Bickmann has been off work due to her surgeries and recovery, the Angel Foundation and the Pay It Forward Fund have provided basic financial assistance.
Bickmann’s husband (Jeff), two children (Amanda Noerenberg and Nick Habisch) and parents (Dianne and Chester Hoernemann of Lester Prairie) have been supportive, as well.
Rides to chemotherapy appointments are one of the best ways people have offered to help.
“I’m not a city driver, and it’s nice to have someone to sit with,” Bickmann said. “The whole process takes about two hours.”
A family history
Although Bickmann’s cancer was discovered quickly, her sister, Roy, had a much different experience when she discovered lumps in her breast 15 years ago.
“I went to seven different doctors, and they told me it wasn’t cancerous,” Roy said.
The mammogram and ultrasound didn’t show cancer, but Roy said she “didn’t feel right about it.”
“When I went to the last doctor, I said ‘I just want this out,’” she recalled.
It wasn’t until after the surgery that doctors discovered the lumps were, indeed, a very early stage of cancer.
“You have to be very proactive,” Roy said, explaining that a woman in her chemo treatment sessions waited six months to get checked out, and the cancer ended up claiming her life.
Although Roy caught the cancer early, her journey hasn’t been easy. During her tram flap reconstruction surgery (which uses muscle, fat, and skin from the abdomen to construct new breast tissue), too much muscle tissue was taken out.
“What should have been a simple procedure ended up being a nightmare,” Roy said. “I couldn’t sit up straight for two years.”
After additional surgeries and time to heal, Roy has mostly recovered, but still goes to physical therapy three days a week.
Roy encourages people who have cancer not to be afraid to ask for help.
“You can’t do it alone,” she said. “Our family has had its share of tragedies, yetwe hold strong to our faith and know we hold each other up as difficulties seem to tear us down. We try to remain positive, laugh, and encourage one anotheralong the way.”