Margie Mason admits she never used to be the kind of person to just stop and smell the roses. "I was on the go. Definitely would consider myself a workaholic. Busy, busy, busy."
But sometimes life forces you to slow down, whether you want to or not.
Cancer has been a part of Margie's life for more than two decades. "My mom passed of breast cancer. She died in March of 2011. She knew how to live life. I miss her."
And after 20 years of watching her mother's battle, Margie was about to be in a battle of her own. "The day after my mom passed I was scheduled for my yearly exam and of course I had to cancel. From that point until May 10th I discovered a lump on my left breast. And I had a rash on my right. I was talking to my sister and I thought, I think I better mention this. When I went in, she said let's just do an ultra sound. I remember at 1:24 pm Dr. Ellis looking down and saying, 'this is more than a biopsy.' And that's when my life completely changed."
Margie was diagnosed with breast cancer but even worse they also found a spot on her lungs. "I had had the biopsy and the surgeon called me at home and said the biopsy on your lung was cancer so that changes the ballgame."
"Well she had stage 4 disease when she was diagnosed," says Gundersen Oncologist Dr. Alcee Jumonville. "By the time you are at stage 4, we rarely consider that we have any curative treatments. At the time of Margie's diagnosis in the lung as well as the breast we were dealing with a pretty serious presentation."
Hearing the news was hard enough, but then she had to share it with her friends and family. "That's the hardest part of it all because you don't want to disappoint them. And you know how much they love and care about you because cancer didn't only change my life - it changes everyone around you. When you're diagnosed it's not just you. The friends and support around you changes your life and makes you want to try harder to get better and to keep yourself healthy."
Margie immediately began treatment. "We gave her aggressive chemotherapy and the thing in her lung disappeared.," says Jumonville.
"I then had a double mastectomy. And then I had 33 rounds of aggressive radiation. Altogether pretty close to a years worth of treatments."
And in all that time, she never thought about giving up. "Not for one second. I owe it to my family friends and medical team. I've got a lot more to do and I plan to do it."
Today, Margie is in remission. "I consider myself to be a walking miracle. Stage 4 is pretty devastating. I was told my horse was pretty much out of the barn and I said, 'you don't know who's riding that horse.'"
This weekend, Margie will lace up her shoes and walk in The Gundersen Medical Foundations Steppin' Out in Pink event. "This is the 3rd year I have had team Margie E. Mason, Movers Encouraging Miracles." This year so far we have 127 people signed up for the team. So if you are out there and you want to walk...Please join us! It's amazing how many people are affected by cancer and how generous people are. I can't even explain what it feels like to see all that pink. And how thankful and blessed we are to have that here in our backyard."
Even now, Margie is not ready to close the chapter on her breast cancer story. In fact, quite the opposite. She is now on a mission. "I want to do everything I can to pay it forward. To help the next person or the person supporting the person. I ask my friends,'have you gotten our mammogram?' I want to be able to be a voice and to let people know that they can do it. They can do it."
The walk is Saturday, September 7th. Early registration for the walk has ended, but you can still register the 'day of' the event. Proceeds go toward funding cancer research at Gundersen Health System as well as helping people with breast cancer who are in need. Find details on how to sponsor a walker and how to donate to the cause by checking out www.steppinoutinpink.org.