Royal Oak residents Bob and Jodie Wilson have found out the hard way that sometimes the lows in life can build the momentum needed to reach the peaks. “These last three or four years have been quite a roller coaster ride,” Bob Wilson said.
Jodie and Bob Wilson haven't put their experience with cancer behind them to forget, though. The couple and about 36 of their friends and family will be in downtown Detroit on Saturday morning for the 20th annual Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure.
It all started when, at the age of 26, Jodie Wilson found a lump on her right breast.
“It was Oct. 3, 2007, when I first felt my lump and thought it was nothing. I thought I was pregnant," she said. "There was no breast cancer in my family and no cancer of any kind under the age of 72. I was at the lowest risk. … But I went to the doctor and the doctor sent me for a mammogram, biopsy and ultrasound.”
On Oct. 16, Jodie was told she had breast cancer in her right breast.
“It was triple negative breast cancer, which means it's not receptive to hormones,” she said. There was a 4.8 cm tumor on her breast, “rather large in the cancer world,” she said.
A few weeks later, an eight-round chemo treatment began. In March, her right breast was removed, then she was treated with more radiation because of the size of tumor.
Jodie's last round of radiation was in June 2008. After two reconstruction surgeries that year, Jodie and Bob decided they wanted to start a family.
“Why put life on hold any longer?” Jodie said, adding she also was anticipating they might have trouble having children because she knew her cancer treatment had been attacking her cells. The ovaries, she said, are basically surrounded by cells.
“In fact,” she said, “my husband and I saw an infertility specialist.” But they shouldn't have worried – life truly was not going to be put on hold any longer.
After her last reconstructive surgery, Jodie said “the doctors said, 'Just get through your surgery and see what happens.' Surgery was on Monday and I got pregnant on Friday.”
When she was going through treatments, she said “it was more important to save me and see what happens after that. So we started chemo right away.”
After all the treatment, a mastectomy and two reconstruction surgeries, life for the Wilsons reached a high point when Jodie and Bob's son, Calan, was born June 24.
“Being a mom is amazing,” Jodie said. “I have been a stay-at-home mom the whole time and just wouldn't want to be anywhere else.”
Wilson said she was able to breastfeed from her left breast. “It was very important to me,” she said.
And just when they thought the wild ride was over, more thrills were in store for the couple. “Four months later (after their son was born), we got pregnant again.”
Jodie is due to have a baby girl on July 23. She said she plans to have one more reconstruction surgery after having children because her body is changing so much with pregnancy and breastfeeding. It will be a challenge, she said, because the first two were pretty agonizing.
For now, the couple are enjoying the joy that comes with parenthood – and life.
Bob said he's in awe at all the good that has come of a bad situation. He is thankful for the people the couple have met and the things they have experienced.
“My wife is an amazing woman. Very strong and strong-willed," he said. "… I thank God every day that she's here.”
Racing for the cure
Jodie says she is “feeling good” and ready for the Komen race, which also takes place in cities across the country to help raise awareness of breast cancer and raise funds to end it. This will not be the first time she will participate in the Race for the Cure. “Before I was diagnosed,” she said, “my husband and I did the walk twice. Then, the 2008 walk was my first walk post treatment when I was finishing radiation.”
Jodie was 36 weeks pregnant last year, so the race went very slowly. This year, she has another stowaway but team Wilson's Boobies is ready to go. The team will carry signs and root for their captain Saturday. Jodie says she gets a lot of support from her husband's family, who live within a few miles of their Royal Oak home. And they're not alone.
This could be the biggest turnout in the event's 20-year history, said Patricia A. Ellis, manager of media relations at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and media chair of the Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure Volunteer Race Committee. An estimated 40,000 people of all ages will gather 7 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Saturday, she said, and more than 10,000 pink ribbons will line Woodward Avenue and circle Comerica Park to celebrate survivors, honor loved ones and greet supporters who are walking or running in Michigan’s largest race.
“Metro Detroiters continue to demonstrate their remarkable spirit, compassion and generosity, even in the toughest of times," Ellis said. "Nowhere do people feel a more powerful sense of hope and determination to end breast cancer forever than at the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure.”
Last year, more than 35,000 people took part in Detroit's Race for the Cure – a 15 percent increase from the previous year. Of the $2.3 million raised, $1.55 million in grants went to support local breast health programs and more than $428,300 supported national breast cancer research.
“We believe this year could top that,” Ellis said.
The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute has been the local presenting sponsor of the Komen Detroit Race for the Cure since the first race in 1992. Since then, the community has rallied the support of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to raise and invest $20 million to help end breast cancer. Seventy-five percent of the net proceeds fund breast cancer screening, treatment and education programs for medically underserved in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties; and the remaining 25 percent supports groundbreaking breast cancer research awarded through Susan G. Komen for the Cure Award and Research Grant Program.
It's not too late to register and Ellis urges people to take part in the race. You can register at several locations around Metro Detroit and on-site race day 7 - 8:45 a.m. Fees will be $20-$40 on race day. Children age 5 and younger get in free, but must be registered to participate. More details are at www.karmanos.org/detroitraceforthecure/registration.asp
To make a donation, go to www.karmanos.org/detroitraceforthecure/friendsfor.asp and for more information, go to www.karmanos.org.