Issue: April, 2008
Author: Mary Angell
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Running the Race of Her Life
Trish Becklinger asked for breast cancer. She remembers when her sister was diagnosed with it in 2002.
“I took it very hard,” she told the Wyoming Lawyer. “One night I was home by myself and I said, ‘Why are you doing this, God? She has a family and grandchildren on the way. Why not me? I don’t have a family.’”
It’s the ultimate illustration of why you should be careful about what you ask for.
“They were wrong about the cancer,” Trish said about her sister. “She was so fortunate. The doctor said, “Whatever was there is not there now. Go home.’ The following year, it was me.”
Trish works for the Wyoming State Bar. She is a Program Assistant for the Board of Professional Responsibility. She is also a breast cancer survivor and the Chairperson of this year’s Komen Wyoming Race for the Cure® in Cheyenne, scheduled for August 9, 2008.
Approximately 300 volunteers throughout the year and 15 committees help make the race happen, but Trish’s work started in November, and she works on organizing the race every night after work.
“I work, then go home and work on the computer until 9:30, then get up at 5:30 in the morning and wonder why I’m tired,” she said.
Oddly enough, Trish did not become involved with the Race for the Cure after she was diagnosed and treated for cancer. She has been involved for 12 years, almost as long as the Race has been run in Cheyenne.
“I didn’t know anybody who had breast cancer at the time I got involved. I just thought, ‘This is something I really want to get involved with,’” she said. “You think, ‘This could happen to you.’”
This is the 13th year of the Race for the Cure in Cheyenne. Last year, almost 2,200 people attended, and the event raised $228,600.
“We’re considered very small compared to a lot of the races throughout the United States,” she said.
Denver, Colorado, boasts the largest Race for the Cure in the United States, with an average of 63,000 participants. Trish walks in the Denver race, as well as the one in Aspen, Colorado.
“I look back now and I think, ‘Gosh, you know, it doesn’t seem like it has been four years (since she was declared cancer-free); it seems like yesterday,’” she said. “I’ve stayed so involved with the Race for the Cure.”
Trish was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2003. What does a woman do when she hears that news?
“You cry,” she said. “It’s amazing--your doctor cries right along with you. As many times as she has had to say that. I knew the girls in the doctor’s office. They were all crying. You’re shocked.”
The next day, Trish saw radiology and chemotherapy oncologists.
“It’s so fast you really don’t have time to think about it,” she said.
“It makes you stop and think about your health,” she said. “How important it is to you. I talk to some women in their 40s and they say, “I have never had a mammogram,’ and I say, ‘You just have to do it. It’s one of the most important things in your life. You’ve got family, and you don’t want your family to be alone without you.’”
Trish had a lumpectomy in March 2004, during which doctors removed the lump and 13 lymph nodes. In April, she started radiation therapy, which continued into June. The chemotherapy was worse.
“Chemo is no fun,” she said. “It takes about an hour and a half; you have two or three needles in your hand. You’re sick afterward.”
She lost her hair and wore lots of hats and scarves. Sadly, she said, cancer is prevalent enough that people are used to seeing cancer patients suffering the side effects of chemotherapy.
“There’s not anyone anywhere who doesn’t have a father, mother, brother (because men can get breast cancer, too), aunt, sister or cousin who has not had some sort of breast cancer,” said Trish.
Even so, her sister was shocked to see her bald.
“My sister came out after my surgery and stayed a whole week,” Trish said. “The first time she walked in the door, I took my hat off and she said, ‘Oh, my!’ That’s the reaction I remember more than any.”
Trish’s family --- her sister, three brothers and sisters-in-law --- were very supportive of her and helped her through her treatment. Either her brother or her sister-in-law in Cheyenne went to all of her appointments with her. She stayed at their house over the weekends while she recovered from Fridays’ chemotherapy treatments. They were Trish’s crutch to lean on.
Trish also had the support of her daughter whom she had met just months before her diagnosis.
About 40 years ago, Trish had a child she gave up for adoption. She didn’t know whether she’d given birth to a boy or a girl.
“In April 2003, I got a phone call from a mediator who helps adopted children find their birth parents. She said, ‘Your daughter is trying to locate you,’” Trish said. “That was a shock. The mediator worked it out, and Holly called me.”
“We talked, and we are as close today as if she was there for 40 years,” she continued. “Then that fall I found out I had breast cancer. It was an awesome year."
Trish called Holly with the news of her diagnosis, not for Trish’s sake, but to let Holly know for her own medical history.
“She was awesome, wonderful,” Trish said. “She called me all the time. We talked constantly; she was always wanting to know how I was doing. “
And through it all, Trish had the Race for the Cure to keep her going.
She found the lump the week before she and 11 other women went to New York City to participate in the Race for the Cure there. She went knowing she was going to have a doctor’s appointment when she got back.
In April 2004, Trish participated in the Celebrate Pink luncheon in Cheyenne, which includes a style show featuring models who are all breast cancer survivors. Trish was one of them. The survivors are asked about their experiences, and when it was her turn, Trish said that in September 2003, she went to New York City with friends to participate in the Race for the Cure, but in June she was going to Washington D.C. to participate in the Race there as a survivor.
“When you go through it, you just have to know you have a fight, and you’re going to win,” she said. “I am a survivor --- days into years.”
“I have met so many friends since being a survivor,” Trish added. “You see them everywhere. You run into them when you are shopping. After four years, they ask, ‘How are you doing? How you do feel?’ You do the same thing. To me, it’s gotten to be more than a friendship, than just a Race for the Cure.”
Chairing the Race for the Cure is a big job, Trish said, but she’s learned a lot and feels her work is important.
“It’s so worthwhile,” she said. “When you see those women in the race with their pink hats and pink t-shirts, they’re proud. They’re proud to be survivors.”
“I think the Race for the Cure is the most important thing in my life right now,” she added. “I asked God the question ‘Why her and not me?’ And he answered me. He’s been getting me through it.”
Mary Angell is a freelance writer from Cheyenne, Wyoming, and a regular contributor to the Wyoming Lawyer.
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