Some area breast cancer survivors and their supporters are stepping out on their own this year. This Saturday, October 21, the Bedford County Pink Ribbon Fund Walk will raise funds and awareness to fight breast cancer.
Residents started it after the American Cancer Society discontinued the Bedford walk and consolidated efforts with the Altoona event.
Survivor Brandi Hershey is helping to spearhead the effort. She served as a prosecutor in both Blair and Bedford counties before opening a law practice in Bedford three years ago. A Bedford County native, she’d been involved in the Making Strides Walk, and following the 2015 event she decided it was time to have her own breast lump checked out.
Brandi’s radiologist said her mammogram didn’t show breast cancer. It was probably nothing, but recommended an ultrasound. It showed no definite sign the lump was cancer, but they decided to do a biopsy. The diagnosis was triple negative breast cancer, often more aggressive and difficult to treat.
“I remember my husband asked the doctor if this was your wife what would you do and our doctor told us, ‘well, I would go home tonight and I would pray, and then tomorrow, get up and start formulating a plan of attack,” Brandi says.
That’s what they did. Doctors at Magee Women’s Hospital of UPMC recommended 16 rounds of chemotherapy, before a double-mastectomy.
Brandi was only 41. She says, “Truly in the back of my mind I thought, well, how bad would it be. I’m young, I’m healthy, I’ll be just fine. Well, I was very naive. I think it was incredibly difficult,”
She decided to cut her hair before chemotherapy made it fall out to make the transition easier for her children.
“Throughout this whole journey with the diagnosis the treatment, I kind of decided I can either cry about this or I can laugh about it and I chose to laugh,” she says, smiling.
Brandi covered her balding head with wigs, one of them bright red with pigtails, sharing them with her children. Meanwhile, for adults, Brandi was formulating the top 10 reasons why chemotherapy is awesome.
“You don’t have to shave your legs, it doesn’t take you very long to get ready in the mornings cause you don’t have to do your hair, but your eyebrows also fall out, so I would end up spending as much time trying to draw my eyebrows as I did doing my hair, so it’s kind of a wash as far as saving time, ” she says.
Another reason why chemotherapy is awesome, “If you have cancer, nobody’s going to take the last piece of cake, if you want it, you get the cake. If you’re standing in line at Walmart, it’s pretty obvious that you have cancer, so they say ‘you go ahead.’ That’s one time in my life I said, ‘Why thank you, I think it will,” she adds laughing.
Now, a little over one year out from treatment, Brandi tries not to worry about the future, instead focusing on her family, her law practice, her friends and her community.
She says, “One thing I’m so grateful for is this Bedford County community rallied around me and my family. I will never ever be able to adequately describe or repay the love and support that was shown to me and my family.”
Brandi and her family will show their love and support in the Bedford County Pink Ribbon Fund Walk and says she’ll be happy to share her story a thousand times if it helps just one person.
One take-home message: “Be your own advocate be aware of what’s going on in your own body because no one knows your body like you do, the earlier you can find something out, the earlier you can start treatment, the better, absolutely,” is how she puts it.
And she has one more addition to the top 10 chemo list, that might help women going through the difficult treatment.
Brandi says, “My six months of chemotherapy did exactly what it was supposed to do there was no evidence of the tumor after chemo so that’s obviously the number one reason that chemotherapy is awesome.”
Money raised in the walk on Saturday will go to help local breast cancer patients and their families with financial, emotional, and any type of support they need.