Health experts say one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. What are the chances that the disease would strike three friends within weeks of each other?
Darlene Eckert, Chris Rieder and Mary Zuchelli all graduated from the St. Mary’s High School, class of 1976.
“Oh my gosh, yeah, we all ran around in high school and the years after that and we just we’ve always been friends, all three of us,” Eckert said.
They’ve shared a lot of fun times, but lately a lot of not- so-fun times. This year, in early February, Zuchelli was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She recalled hearing the news. “They called me that evening and said ‘can you come in tomorrow we saw something on the mammogram,’ and I’m thinking it’s probably just the same thing they’ve seen in the past, so I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me,” Zuchelli explained.
Exactly one month later, Eckert got her diagnosis. Her reaction was pretty much the same.
“I was shocked beyond shocked, because there’s no family history of it,” she said.
When Rieder heard about her two friends, “I felt bad for them. I didn’t know that I had it so, yeah, I was concerned,” she remembers.
Then, Rieder got her devastating news at the end of March.
“I had a sore spot under my arm,” she said, adding, “I thought I just pulled a muscle and then it didn’t go away. It didn’t get any better, so I went to the doctor to see what was going on and I really wasn’t expecting this!”
But all three said there is one upside to sharing this devastating diagnosis.
Eckert said, “I loved every minute of being with these guys through all this, not that I wanted them to have it, you know, it was nice to have somebody that was close to lean on, on the bad days cause there was a lot of bad days and then there was a lot of good days.”
And Rieder added, “It was nice to have their support and they already knew what was going on ahead and I could call them and see what was going, what the next steps were, they knew ahead of me, so that was nice.”
Zuchelli said it’s different when you get the support of someone who understands exactly what you’re going through.
As she put it, “Family and friends, they are compassionate toward you, but those folks that are actually going through it many of the times have the same feelings, as you do, the feelings of fear and anxiety, and it’s good to be able to have someone you can talk to and just joke to, joke about it, that helps.”
All three women have been under the care of Jean Levin, Nurse Practitioner, Penn Highlands DuBois.
“They’re wonderful, they’re wonderful women. They have absolutely the most positive outlook on life,” Levin said, smiling.
She believes the support they share will make a difference in their journey. “Women that have support do better with their therapies because they have someone to help them lean on throughout their treatment, so these women having each other getting through their treatments is obviously much more important to them and also to their families.”
These women have all learned something they want to share with other women–the importance of getting regular mammograms.
Eckert admitted, “There’s so many people that just don’t get their mammograms and I was one of them, I mean I always got them, but this year I wasn’t going to do it…”
Zuchelli and Rieder also delayed a bit this past year.
Rieder said, “I was definitely one that didn’t think you had to get one every year. I just didn’t think it was necessary. I guess I didn’t think it was going to happen to me.”
They don’t know how much of a difference the delay might have made, they’re just focused on the battle together.
The three Breastketeers are doing their part this Sunday, September 9, to help other women battling breast cancer. They’re holding the First Annual Breast Cancer Ride in St. Mary’s to raise money for gasoline gift cards for patients.
Registration is from noon to 1 p.m. at Wildwoods Bar & Grill. Stops include Wildwoods Bar & Grill, The Summit Lodge & Grill, Gunners Inn and the Marienstadt Public House.
A $10 donation is being asked to participate in the Cancer Dice Ride.
All on-road vehicles are invited and people are encouraged to wear PINK!