Survivor leads local breast cancer fight

Published 9:59 pm Thursday, September 10, 2009

In 2009, nearly 200,000 American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, according to estimates from Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization.

A team of employees at Lakeview Medical Center, however, is raising money to help lower the numbers for the future. The team will hold a yard sale Saturday to raise money for the cause.

“My whole goal is to try to do something to pay back what people did for me,” said Sharon Peelen, licensed practical nurse in the obstetrics and gynecology division of the center. Peelen was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in February 2008. Now a cancer survivor, she and other employees at the center who have fought or are fighting the disease were the inspiration behind creating a local team for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

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The center’s employees have been active in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life for years. However, they decided to take the extra step this year.

“We decided we were going to form the team,” said Rachael Payne, a registered medical assistant at the center. “We’re going to try to do it every year.”

After Peelen’s sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 31, she knew she was at higher risk, she said. She began getting annual mammograms and doing monthly self-checks for any abnormalities.

In 2007, despite having a clear mammogram earlier in the year, Peelen began noticing some changes in the summer and fall. A doctor did a biopsy in January 2008 and diagnosed her the following month.

Following surgery, Peelen underwent six rounds of chemotherapy and 38 radiation treatments. She returned to work in October 2008.

“It really was a journey,” Peelen said. “A lot of people got me through it. My family was very supportive, and the people I work with. It’s the support that gets you through.”

Having breast cancer herself has shaped the way she looks at her job, Peelen said.

“When I was diagnosed myself, it put me on the patient’s side of things,” she said. “You realize what the patients go through.”

During her treatments, Peelen made a pact with co-workers that once she was well, they would participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Her motivation is not only healing for herself, but helping to change the future for her two daughters and one son.

“If I can raise money now to help in any kind of research that may one day help them, that’s what my goal is,” Peelen said.

The Lakeview Medical Center team will hold a yard sale Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon at 2000 Meade Parkway. For more information, call 923-9653.