ARENAC COUNTY — October is breast cancer awareness month and two area survivors, Betsy Leadbetter, of Sterling, and Brenda Eymer, Mills Township, will receive recognition for their triumphs over cancer prior to a Saginaw Spirit hockey game on Oct. 18.
The two ladies were nominated to receive the recognition by their friend Doreen Lavasky, of Sterling, who says the promotion to honor breast cancer survivors is a joint venture between National City Bank, the Saginaw Spirit and St. Mary’s of Michigan Seton Cancer Institute.
“I had to write a little thing to tell why I nominated them,” Lavasky said.
She says Eymer was nominated because she was there for her during a hard time.
“My sister died of breast cancer and she helped me through it,” Lavasky said. “She’s my best friend.”
As for Leadbetter, Lavasky says she should be commended for her continual efforts in working for a cure and awareness after beating cancer.
“She goes to Lansing and she fights for the no-smoking (bill) and she tries to get money for the cancer institute,” Lavasky said. “She’s very active.”
And while Eymer and Leadbetter are both glad to be recognized as survivors, they said times were much darker and their outlooks much bleaker when the diagnoses were first given.
“You think you got cancer and you’re not going to live,” Eymer said. “You think the worst.”
“I just thought right away ‘I’m going to die,’” Leadbetter said, adding she remembered her aunt who died of breast cancer back when treatments were fairly primitive. “She had all her muscles removed. … They just butchered these women.”
“Chemo (therapy) was the worst,” Eymer added. “The last couple time I went, I was sick to my stomach and I was nauseated.”
And Leadbetter, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 40, was taken by total surprise.
“I hadn’t even had my original mammogram,” Leadbetter said.
But the ladies had ways to stay strong and make it through the tough times.
Eymer says she actually thought of Lavasky’s sister, Lorie Nowosielski, and recalled her experience.
“I knew a little bit about what I’d be going through,” she said, adding the increased knowledge helped her stay on top of the disease.
Leadbetter says she built up a support system and stayed optimistic.
“There is such a good survival rate if you get in early,” she said, adding good fortune played a part. “I’ve just been really lucky.”
Now, both women say they do self-breast exams more frequently and take them seriously.
See the whole story in the Oct. 15 issue of "The Arenac County Independent."