Since this May 19, 2012 will be the 20th Annual Komen Columbus Race for the Cure, for the next 20 weeks we’re going to spotlight 20 individuals who have participated in the Race throughout the years. They come from all walks of life and may be survivors, volunteers, grantees, sponsors or advocates, but they’re all committed to the fight against breast cancer.
Week 11: The One Who Fights with a Smile
Guest Post by Rebecca Hudson
Judy Schiewer enters the restaurant with an incredible sense of energy, smiling broadly as if she didn’t have a care in the world. The minute she gets close enough, she wraps her arms around someone she has never met, hugging them affectionately as if they had been friends forever.
As she settles in the booth, her “new friend” is drawn to the gorgeous pink Swarovski crystal necklace, which Judy wears proudly as a breast cancer survivor. She beams as she explains that she won the necklace in 2008 at the Night of Giving at the Polaris Mall. As she turns her head, her beaded breast cancer ribbon earrings gracefully swing from her ears. Glancing down to her nails, she sports pink ribbons embedded in her polish.
As one of the first participants in Komen Columbus’ Race for the Cure 20 years ago, Judy’s breast cancer journey goes far beyond simply managing the disease. It was preceded on a Friday in 1992 by learning, after five years, she had lost her job. The following Sunday, as she relaxed on her couch watching TV, she felt a lump on her right breast. On Tuesday her doctor informed Judy that the lump was not a cyst and would need to be biopsied. Wednesday, she met with a breast surgeon who told her that, by the look and feel of it, he was 99 percent certain it was not malignant.
What came next were two surgeries that confirmed she had breast cancer and the malignancy of one lymph node. She underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy, which included taking pills every day and drinking eight quarts of water a day. At the same time she was completing chemotherapy, she did six weeks of radiation.
As she shares her experience, it is impossible not to be drawn to the bright pink sleeve on her right arm that she wears daily to deal with her struggle with lymphedema, the swelling caused by the removal of her lymph nodes during her lumpectomies. At night, she uses a pump to continue to reduce the swelling.
Approximately 10 years ago, she was diagnosed with radiation-induced brachial plexopathy, a decreased movement and sensation in her arm and shoulder. She explained that when she touches anything, she feels nothing. As someone whose job is to do data entry for the Ohio State Bar Association for the last 13 years, that side affect from her surgery and treatment will eventually force her into an early retirement.
Throughout all of this, she has approached each new hurdle with a sense of humor and a positive attitude.
“I didn’t give into the fear that I could die… I faced every day knowing, believing, I was going to make it – I was going to live!”
Despite all the daily challenges she faces, she humbly believes that her breast cancer experience is not much different from other women challenged with this disease. She credits a great deal of her positive attitude to the “extraordinary” women she has met through Komen Columbus. She also applauds the staff of the affiliate “for all they do for the women, men and families who are affected in one way or another with breast cancer.”
For example, through Komen Columbus, she met a supportive group of women, known as “The Bailey’s Group” after one of the founders. The members include survivors, in addition to others who are actively undergoing treatment. They meet monthly at a local restaurant to share their experiences, catch up and give each other strength. In the past two years, they have lost two members to breast cancer.
“There aren’t enough words to describe the value of having a support group and I recommend them for any woman affected by breast cancer.”
Judy’s involvement with Komen throughout the years is extensive:
- At her first Race, which was held at the Ohio State football stadium in the rain, she met one of Columbus’ icons for driving breast cancer research, Stefanie Spielman. Stefanie signed her cap which Judy considers a treasure.
- At another Race, she met another well-known Columbus spokesperson in the fight against breast cancer, local television anchor Heather Pick.
- At the 2011 Race, she met and was photographed with Heather Pick’s husband, Joe Cygan, who carries on her legacy by playing with his band, Hot Pink Racers, at numerous Komen Columbus events. View the official music video for “Believe,” the band’s tribute song to Heather, here.
- Judy’s friends and family support her Race participation by contributing between $700 and $1,200 annually, an accomplishment that has earned her a place on the Race for the Cure Honor Roll for the last two years. Every supporter receives a note from Judy with an original needlepoint of a large pink ribbon with the message, “There is always hope.”
- In 2009, she participated in the first Komen Race for the Cure in Indianapolis, her hometown, and has participated every year since.
- She joined a team of survivors to walk in Indianapolis’ Race for the Cure and Pink Survivor Super Bowl Rally right before this year’s Super Bowl. Judy donned her pink wig for both events. In addition, each survivor received a pink boa and a small pink football.
- To achieve comfort from the lymphedema, she participates in a Komen-sponsored pool exercise class, led by Cathi Shade, who quickly became a friend.
Judy uses her story of survival to inspire and educate others about breast cancer by supporting many Komen sponsored events such as Hockey Fights Cancer night with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the lighting of the LeVeque Tower.
Judy is a remarkable story of a survivor with a strong belief that Komen Columbus has given her the strength to face breast cancer with courage and a positive attitude.
“I’d like to think that what I do might affect someone else’s life and possibly save them from the horror and fears of this disease,” Judy said proudly, with her signature smile. “We’ve come a long way, but there is still a long road ahead of us. It’s going to take everyone’s participation to conquer breast cancer. And, I know, without a doubt, we will finally win!”
If you’d like to join Judy on the Race course this May 19th, please click here to register.