Race for the Cure: Phyllis Lee's Story

Race for the Cure just one week away

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11) -- The Race for the Cure is next Saturday, October 14th. WHAS 11 News is your Susan G. Komen station helping raise support and awareness for women fighting breast cancer.

One woman impacted by the work Komen does, is Phyllis Lee.

“In the dragon boat racing we’re all in the same boat,” explained Phyllis.

Each stroke in perfect unison.

“We’re going through the same journey so to speak.”

She and her sisters in pink paddle a 40-foot boat through the waters of the Ohio.

“It’s hard to explain,” said Phyllis. “But it’s just such an amazing thing to know you’ve got the support and love from your teammates and we’re there to help each other.”

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Support to make it through a tremendous battle, one that Phyllis has watched more times than any person should have to. Her grandmother, mother, aunt, father, and brother all lost their lives to cancer.

“That’s the first thing I thought of, you know my mom died, you know, she didn’t have a chance.”

Her mom died at only 49 years old, a year younger than when Phyllis was diagnosed.

“I went, had my yearly mammogram, I was faithfully getting every year because of the history, and my doctor called me and said, you know there was an abnormal mammogram.”

The words you never want to hear, “you have cancer.”

“As soon as you hear that word cancer, your life just flashes in front of you and I thought, the first think you think of – are you going to die, and I didn’t want my son to go through what I had to at my age,” said Phyllis. To be there for her son, she started her fight against cancer.

“I think any time you get a cancer diagnosis that, it’s not a death sentence always. It’s important to stay active. Get out, get out of your comfort zone, you know, there’s a lot out there for you to do.”

It wasn’t natural for Phyllis, but she says events held by Susan G. Komen helped her get out and meet people with the same struggles.

“One of the biggest things that Susan G Komen offers in comradery, and the fact that people now feel like they’re not alone in this battle. I know that so many of them feel like they’re the only ones until they start talking to one another and then they realize, oh you had that symptom, or you had that situation in your treatment process,” said Lynn Huffman with Susan G Komen of Kentucky. She explains that through grants they help fund everything from education, early mammograms, treatment, research and programs to help survivors.

“Susan G. Komen is second in research funding, only to the U.S. government,” said Huffman.

Research that has helped change the face of cancer treatment, Phyllis lee remembers her mother’s battler looking so much different.

 “The treatments are so much better than back then,” said Phyllis.

Giving her a chance her mother never had. It’s been 13 years since she found out she had cancer, and her life only gets brighter.

“I came out of a shell, which I probably wouldn’t have prior to cancer. And yes, it was horrible, but would I change it? Probably not, because the friends that I have made – my pink sisters.”

She’s run races, went to events, and is now an active member of the Derby City Dragons. The motion of the paddling can decrease risk of lymphedema – the friendship pushes her forward even more.

“I’m just fierce now. There’s nothing I won’t stand up to or try,” said Phyllis.

If you'd like to learn more about the Derby City Dragons visit their website here: www.derbycitydragons.org

If you'd like to sign up for the Race for the Cure, or donate to Susan G. Komen of Kentucky, visit: www.komenkentucky.org

One of the things we talk about is how important early screening are, which is why Susan G Komen helps get women mammograms. Phyliss says he got a mammogram every year because of her family history. Her doctors told her that her cancer was so aggressive, had she missed just that one mammogram and to come back the next year, she might not have lived long enough to go to that appointment. 

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