Gerry Parenteau

Gerry Parenteau

Location:
Pewaukee, WI

Career:
Volunteer/Fundraising Coordinator

Age Diagnosed:
55

My Reason For Participating:
“I am a four year breast cancer survivor and I intend to do all I can to help find a cure for this disease. I attended the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC) Annual Advocacy Training Conference and Lobby day in Washington, DC in May of this year and realized even more that I need to follow my passion to fight for a cure for Breast cancer! When I heard of the Rare Chair Affair, I thought it would be another step in my journey to do as much as I can to help others, especially my own family (I have four daughters).

I am a Rare Chair Affair Survivor Artist this year for a reason and that is to do anything I can to bring awareness and hope to anyone who may hear the words “You have breast cancer.” Those words don’t always mean death. Yearly mammograms and monthly breast self-exams are important parts in a woman’s own well-being. We need to take care of our whole self; mind, body and spirit.”

My Story:
Breast Cancer Awareness Month was never as important to me as it was in October of 2000. On June 7th of that year I was told I had breast cancer. I couldn’t believe it. I had done everything I thought I was supposed to do: I nursed all 4 of my daughters after they were born, I exercised, I ate right, I was only 55 years old. How can I have breast cancer, the “BIG C”?

I didn’t realize at the time how this frightful news would affect my life. I had a lumpectomy and a month later started 4 rounds of chemo. Every treatment left me with a different side affect, from extreme nausea, heartburn, and mouth sores to really tender feet! One of my daughters said, “Mom if there is a side affect you will get it.”

Loosing my hair was one of the worst days of my life. We take so much for granted in our daily living. Now I never complain of a bad hair day because a no hair day is worse! I also had a good case of “chemo brain”. I couldn’t even think to balance my checkbook. Life can get very frustrating when you think you are also losing your mind.

Radiation started in late October. I had 33 rounds and it was also very tiring. I was so burned and tender and exhausted. I had to laugh when I looked in the mirror and saw a bald head and a chest all marked with magic marker to mark the area for treatment.

The support of my family and friends was wonderful, but only I could fight the cancer. I can now say that my cancer has changed me, I now do all I can in my life. I don’t worry about the future because each day is precious. Sometimes when I think back four years ago, I cannot believe all that I went through, and am feeling great now. I try to live in a state of gratitude daily and life just keeps getting better!

Breast cancer taught me many valuable lessons. I learned I had to be tolerant with all the people who knew what was best for me. I had to learn to listen and realize that was the best they could do. I learned patience with myself. I wanted to take a pill and it would be all over. My body was not healing as fast I wanted it to. I was not used to sitting around without feeling guilty. I had to sit and listen to my body. Most of all I had to learn trust in people, doctors, nurses who had my life in their hands. I was thankful for my sense of humor. I believe it helped me through many tough times not only my cancer journey. Keeping a positive attitude is half the battle. More importantly I had to surrender my worries to God and put my life in His hands. Things happen in our lives for a reason and we need to try and ask ourselves,” What can I learn from this one?”