Rhonda Pelk is no stranger to volunteer work.
“Since being diagnosed, I’ve volunteered at the Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center Cancer Infusion Center every Friday morning as well as being a mentor for After Breast Cancer Diagnosis. Each year, I also have chosen to do something “larger” to raise awareness of the need for research, especially for those have been diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), which I had. Twice, I modeled for a fashion show to raise funds for TNBC research, one year I organized a team to participate in the Dirty Girl Mud Run and this year, I would like to flex my creative skills as well as honor those individuals who were there for me as I went thru treatment.”
Calling her diagnosis a “true honor from God,” Rhonda said her diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer did not cause her to re-evaluate her life.
“The main reason was I was living the life I wanted to, doing the things I wanted with the people I loved hanging around with. So, unfortunately, I don’t really think about my life any different than before. If anything, it does NOT define who I am and truthfully, the moniker “survivor” drives me nuts. I didn’t survive anything. I had a disease that required treatment. I completed that and am now healed … end of story.”
Rhonda is encouraged by growing scientific understanding of TNBC. “Chemo is VERY hard on the body, and while in the thick of things, doctors focus on managing the side effects, but what they fail to communicate is the long-term effects one has to endure. And while that may lead to many women choosing to forego the treatment, it is our bodies and we have the right to know EVERYTHING even if we may not be totally ready to handle it mentally.”
She hopes that research might pave the way to better management of the disease.
“Figuring out what causes cancer might be a futile effort as I am sure they have been working on that for decades, so I would like to see more research devoted to different treatment options. I believe cancer will always be part of being human, so finding a ‘cure’ may not be possible, so focusing on the other half of the equation and managing what happens once one has cancer seems to be the most useful course of study. Checking in every so often on what’s going on with TNBC, it has been amazing what they have been able to figure out with the hope that what I went through for treatment will seem barbaric to women who will be diagnosed a mere 3-5 years from now!”