Cheryl Cherry was 44 when she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 1993. Now, 30 years later, she shares her story and fundraises to end breast cancer through her passion for cycling. This is Cheryl’s story in her own words.
I have always considered myself healthy. I danced when I was young; I stayed in shape when I competed in beauty pageants. I ate right, exercised and didn’t smoke. I had no family history of breast cancer, and then I found the lump.
I had just moved to Seattle, Washington, from my home state of Florida. My daughter, Jennifer, had been offered a full scholarship to dance with the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company. Since she was 16, I decided to pack up with her and move across the country. In 1993, just one year after settling in Washington, I found a noticeable lump in my left breast. It was a Friday night, and I was scared. I was in a new city with a new job and no support system. I called my doctor in Florida, and he said I needed to get a mammogram as soon as possible.
Rather than performing a biopsy, my doctor opted to do a lumpectomy two days after my initial appointment, and I soon learned that I had triple negative breast cancer, stage 2. I opted for what was then a fairly new operation – a mastectomy with a simultaneous TRAM flap reconstruction. I was in good health and young, so I was a perfect candidate for the procedure. I was hesitant at first, but I did my homework and looked up all the different studies that had been done around the procedure. After that, I felt confident that I was making the best decision for me.
I had six months of chemotherapy and began my recovery. I completed genetic testing, which found I did not have a BRCA mutation. About a year after chemotherapy, I found two small cysts in my right breast that were removed. Thankfully, they were benign and for the past 29 years, I have had clear mammograms and follow-ups with my oncologist.
My experience with breast cancer made me realize how important living a healthy life can be in your recovery. After retiring, my husband Tom and I decided to get into cycling. I bought my first road bike at 63 and I haven’t gotten off since. I’ve participated in the Senior Games and Masters’ Time Trials. I won a national championship when I was 66 and then a second when I was 70. But cycling has become more than just about pushing myself and staying in shape, it’s given me an opportunity to fundraise and give back to organizations that were a big part of my recovery, organizations like Susan G. Komen.
Since 2013, I have logged more than 55,000 miles through the Charity Miles app, which allows me to fundraise for Komen through the miles I get on my bike. Tom and I ride approximately 40 miles a day, six days a week, and when we realized how much of an impact we could personally make – for both us and the nonprofits we support – we started really ramping up the miles and there is no end in sight.
This October, Cheryl will be joining cyclists across the country to participate in Komen’s 100-Mile Facebook Cycling Challenge in partnership with Echelon. Participants are challenged to fundraise and log 100 miles on the bike of their choosing during the month of October. Fitness-focused rewards will be given throughout the challenge, and the top fundraiser who completes the 100 miles will win a GT+Connect Susan G. Komen edition bike valued at $900.
Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.