Why Fighting Breast Cancer Requires Strength, Support & a Hint of Humor
The new year is traditionally a time for beginnings, a period for fresh starts and renewal.
That’s at least what Cheri Beddow believed when she and her husband, Abe, welcomed their first grandchild to the family in January 2017.
However, just a few months later, Cheri would face the start of a very different journey.
During a routine checkup, Cheri’s doctors felt a lump in one of her breasts.
A mammogram confirmed that Cheri had breast cancer.
“It was scary,” remembers Cheri. “It was very scary, but there was no other choice but to be strong. There were a couple of minutes of crying, but the rest was just being ready to fight.”
Following her diagnosis in April 2017, Cheri would face a series of treatments that included bilateral mastectomies, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
“Radiation was a surprise – usually when you get a bilateral mastectomy, radiation isn’t part of the treatment. Radiation scared me more than the chemo did,” Cheri says.
There to calm Cheri’s fears and provide answers to her many questions was Noe McGuire, a registered nurse and patient navigator at Pali Momi Medical Center.
“As a navigator, we try to connect to the patients as close to the beginning of their diagnosis as possible and throughout their treatment and recovery,” Noe explains.
“When I first met Cheri, she had a lot of questions, and she needed clarity. She definitely gathered her information before she made any decision,” Noe continues. “I gave her the education to the answers she was seeking. She was quiet, shy and somewhat reserved, but from the get-go she was a fighter. She needed an answer for every question, and that in itself says that she’s in it for the long haul.”
Cheri admits that her need for information gave her a sense of peace amidst the chaos, and allowed her to focus on the most important part of her battle – getting well.
“I need information, and they were patient enough to answer the millions of questions that I had,” Cheri says. “Eventually, it’s my decision, and I have to live with it, but I just wanted to be as informed as possible, and they took the time to answer my questions.”
Those answers proved useful at home, where the mother of five had to sit down with her family and explain what was going on with Mom.
“I don’t hide anything from my kids. Within a week of diagnosis, we had all five of them around and told them the news,” Cheri says. “They asked very direct questions. My youngest was 12 at the time, and he looked at me and asked, ‘Are you going to die.’ I reassured him that no, that wasn’t an option.
“As a mom, it’s hard, but you show them that these things happen in life, and it’s up to you to fight. You determine your attitude, and your attitude plays a huge role in the whole process. They saw me fight, and I think they grew a lot with me through my journey,” Cheri adds.
Cheri’s positive attitude did not go unnoticed by the staff and other patients at Pali Momi.
“She was a trooper, from the initiation of her decision to her bilateral mastectomy to her chemotherapy treatment to losing her hair to her wig – she always smiled,” Noe says. “She was always a jokester, and her husband was always by her side. They are the ideal couple. I deal with patients who have no one, and to see someone who has another is a breath of fresh air.”
“I think your attitude plays a huge part in how the whole process will go,” Cheri says. “I never had a negative thought. It was never an option not to beat this. It was just what I needed to do, and if you have to do something, you might as well have fun to the extent that you can.”
Case in point – Cheri’s “Tina” moment.
“When you go through chemo, you lose all of your hair, so I had this wig,” Cheri says with a sly smile.
“I named her Tina, because it kinda resembled Tina Turner’s hair – it was kinda wild!” Cheri laughs. “Throughout the whole process, we talked about how we wanted to celebrate the end of chemo. We did a dance to Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’ right there in the infusion center. The gal who led the dance was a Zumba instructor, and everyone joined in.”
“Who names a wig?” Noe says. “That was priceless. She was just a breath of fresh air – she’s very refreshing, which is really nice to see. It’s a hard time for anybody, but attitude plays a big factor in your outcome.”
Cheri completed her treatment, fittingly, in December 2017 and today is doing fantastically.
“I have my energy back, and I feel good,” she says.
Cheri credits the support she received from both her family and team of surgeons, occupational therapists and navigators at Pali Momi for giving her a new lease on life.
“I think they just try to make you laugh, and they try to make you comfortable in the middle of it all,” Cheri says. “While you’re going through the process, you don’t realize the impact that it has, but all the different services that they have at Pali Momi – from answering all my questions, to offering financial help to asking how things are at home – it all plays a huge part in how you get through it.
“If I had to go through this experience, I’m glad I did it here.”
Cheri's story was featured on Hawaii News Now "Sunrise on the Road" when the morning show broadcasted live from the Pali Momi Infusion Center July 20, 2018.
Click here to watch the video.
Published on: October 9, 2018