Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Survivors Who Inspire Us

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We are inspired daily by breast cancer survivors in our community including Nancy Ford, Sandee McGlaun, Suzan Merten, Trina Mitchell and Susan Wade.

Nancy Ford: Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Survivor

Nancy Ford

When were you diagnosed: 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer on March 11, 2016 with surgery on May 2, so I'm not a long-time survivor, but I expect to be!

What inspired you during that time: 

Many things have inspired me since March 11, but the most important has been the support and encouragement of the best daughters ever! Robin & Jane surprised me when they came to pick me up for surgery with their fingernails and toenails painted the same color as mine!  Also, being on the receiving end of care and concern from my church, family and friends, who were and are wonderful, is a lesson in not always being in control.

Your current goals: 

My goals are to stay as physically active as I can for as long as I can (I'm thinking years!) by working in the yard (I love being outdoors), water aerobics at the Y, and to keep off the weight I have lost since surgery by sensible eating (and other tips upon request) for the rest of my life.

Tips and Advice: 

Get mammograms EVERY year! I had had them for many years with nothing ever showing up. This year that changed. I was told "in the long run this would be just a 'blip in the road,' except when I first learned about my cancer, it felt a big pot hole. I said to my girls, shall I call VDOT? They're everywhere this spring!    

Become educated enough to know what questions to ask your doctors - write them down and ask them. I always went to appointments with lists and will continue to do so.

Keep a journal - my girls gave me one, and I found it to be a very therapeutic tool - a great stress reliever. This was a first for me (other than the diary I had in my childhood. You know, the one with the tiny key), and I quickly learned that the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write (by hand, not on a computer) to get those negative thoughts, fears, and concerns out of my head and onto paper.

Talk about your cancer to family and friends only when you feel like it. Sometimes you need to and sometimes not. They will know. I have very tolerant friends and family.

Remain as active as possible physically, and stay involved with people in regular activities. Sing and listen to music!

It's okay to occasionally have a pity party, but then do something physical to end it. Retail therapy can also be a good thing!

My surgeon told me, "you've kind of hit the jackpot of cancer!" So I'm taking that jackpot, feeling very grateful and blessed, and getting on with life!

Nancy Ford is the mother of Fleet Feet Sports Roanoke co-owner Robin Lewis and FIT Professional Jane Goode.

Sandee McGlaun: Wife, Professor, Writer, Fighter, Survivor

Sandee McGlaun

When were you diagnosed: 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2016 and am currently undergoing chemotherapy. 

What inspired you during that time: 

I have been wowed and inspired by the kindness and generosity of family and friends near and far, who’ve done everything from helping me shave my head, to sending encouragements, to cooking healthy meals. I am also inspired by my husband Steve, himself a cancer survivor and a Fleet Feet training participant, who has been so supportive and worked so hard to keep things going. 

Your current goals: 

Steve and I have already discussed training for another 5K in the spring!

Tips and Advice: 

During chemo I’ve still been going to the park or greenway and walking at least a few times a week—and hydrating, hydrating, hydrating, which I think has been a key to managing side effects. Movement and fresh air are good for the spirit now and staying active will be my best defense to stay healthy over the long term. 

Dr. Sandee McGlaun is an Associate Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing at Roanoke College.  Check out her blog "Forty-Something First Time Bride."

Suzan Merten: Wife, Mother, Runner, Doctor, Survivor 

"I was never a runner nor any form of athlete growing up. After gaining 10 lbs with chemotherapy as well as being on a medicine that causes arthralgias and osteoporosis, I found running as a way to lose weight, get in shape, help my bones strengthen (when I am not falling and breaking them) and felt great!!  In the process with the Fleet Feet training program, I made a ton of friends and realized how social running could be. Anytime I can talk for 2 hours straight and have the benefit of exercise at the same time is a win win!!!"

Suzan Merten

When were you diagnosed: 

I was diagnosed with breast cancer the week before Christmas in 2007. I had surgery December 23, followed by 6 rounds of chemotherapy and then 35 radiation treatments. I remain on a oral medicine to prevent recurrence (and will so to complete 10 years). 

What inspired you during that time: 

I had much to inspire me during that time to include 4 young children (ages 9-13), a supportive husband, a group of the best friends one could ask for, other family members, and lastly, a vibrant Oncology practice where I was treating patients at the same time I was receiving the same therapy.  

Your current goals: 

My goal during this process was to remain whole as if there was little change in my life. Current goals are similar. Move on. This is a very small fraction of life. Learn from it, and then live!  I have become a healthier person because of this chapter. I don't believe exercise prevents cancer like it does so many other things like heart disease, obesity and diabetes, but an overall healthy lifestyle is good for everyone. 

Tips and Advice: 

Get your yearly mammogram. Do your monthly self exam. See your doctor for a well check yearly. Listen to your body. Exercise your body and mind daily!!

Dr. Suzan Merten works at the Blue Ridge Cancer Center.  

Trina Mitchell: Mother, Runner, Survivor

"I did a No Boundaries training right before I found out I had cancer.  After the chemo, double mastectomy, reconstruction surgery,  I wanted to run again and felt that the Fleet Feet programs would be the best way to get back on track, so I signed up for No Boundaries again and loved all the great support I got from the mentors and the staff at Fleet Feet in general.  I went on the be a mentor for the first 10K over Mill Mountain and that training group was so much fun and all of the people in that group had stayed friends."   

Trina Running

When were you diagnosed: 

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.

What inspired you during that time: 

I was at a good place in my life, my faith in God gave me a peace about it and felt that because I was healthy expect for the cancer I would do everything I could to fight it. Family, friends and co-workers were very supportive. 

Your current goals: 

Getting back to walk/running, being open to talk to others that are dealing with breast cancer 

Tips and Advice: 

Be positive, ask for help if you need it, take breaks if you need, get enough sleep and keep moving!

Susan Wade: Wife, Mother, Walker, Survivor

Susan Wade  

When were you diagnosed: 

Diagnosed with breast cancer in April of 2015.

What inspired you during that time: 

Caring and concern of family and friends, seeing others get thru illness, and fear of dying so young.  I am a Christian so I have the belief of an afterlife but I am also VERY FAMILY ORIENTED and could not imagine missing all the events to come in my family’s life.  So probably what MOST inspired me was my desire to be healthy for my family. 

Your current goals: 

My current goals are to remain a survivor by continually pushing myself with exercise, nutrition, mindfulness.

Tips and Advice: 

Tips to women….know your body and any changes, take note and see a doctor for any physical changes.  Don’t assume…  My kind of cancer is/was not easily detected by routine mammograms, or by feeling sick.   Get prompt medical attention for any appearance change.  May be nothing but…   Ask lots of questions.  Going forward…advocate for breast cancer awareness, healthy exercise and nutrition programs.  Don’t just advocate, put into practice good life style practices.  Try to live as much of a stress free life as possible.  These strategies do not prevent cancer or recurrence but they are positive life goals and this is what we have to work with after treatment.  I am healthier now that many years ago.   Another note:  men get breast cancer too.  They need to observe changes in their bodies too.

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