2011 Crusaders

Heather Jenks

Heather has a story just like many females do without breast cancer in the background. She grew up in Cherokee, Iowa. She was very involved with playing the violin in Orchestra and was active in performing dance. She was an ‘A’ student and an excellent role model to her peers. While in high school she worked at Dairy Queen where she met her future husband. Not knowing that just one date would change their lives, they decided to go to their senior prom together as ‘friends’. Just a few short years later, Heather and her Dairy Queen sweetheart were married.

Currently, Heather stays busy with her two young children. Laurel, who just turned 8 and Lucas just 3. She has been married to her husband Troy for 12 years. Heather also has a full-time job as a travelling nurse. She visits a number of area childcare facilities to make each location is safe for the children that attend. Heather is a nurse! Nurses are the people that always help others. That is very true for Heather, but recently she has needed to step out of the role of a nurse many times to be the patient. Her story of a “normal person” with a “normal story” changed in 2009. She is still a normal person, but she is far from having a normal story.

In December 2008 she found a lump. A mammography & ultrasound resulted in a biopsy on New Year’s Eve. On January 2nd, 2009, she learned that she had “poorly differentiated ductal carcinoma” in three spots in the right breast. The left breast showed no signs of anything suspicious. January 15th was a right total mastectomy including the removal of 13 lymph nodes. Two of those lymph nodes were positive for cancer. Heather had a port placed on February 2nd 2009. She had a small surgery to clean up her incision on February 16th and then started chemo February 27th.

Heather had many side effects, including severely low white blood cell counts, viral outbreaks, nausea and dehydration. She spent more days of March 2009 in the hospital than out and was hospitalized once in April. She finished her last chemo on June 17th and finished 52 treatments/infusions of Herceptin in May of 2009. Heather had reconstruction surgery in August 2009 and was hospitalized after that overnight due to nausea. At this point we thought she was in the clear.

Then, in May 2010 Heather found a lump very close to where the original lump (2008) had been. We thought that it was a puckering or a dimpling in the implant. Then it grew – and quickly. The mass was removed August 6th and found to be cancerous. Then another surgery August 16th was necessary to clear up the margins and remove the implant. A PET scan showed that the rest of her body was clear of cancer – a local recurrence only. With this second finding, along with the surgery, and another week in the hospital, it also resulted in 33 sessions of radiation. During this time, Heather experienced a large amount of burning of the skin, along with blistering. She completed her radiation December 21, 2010.

At the time, yet again, we all hoped that Heather had won the battle against breast cancer until just recently. On Friday, February 24th, she went in for a routine mammogram on her left breast and the found cancer once again. This time the doctors have informed Heather that she has chronic cancer. It will be treated systematically and then hopefully go in remission. She now has started oral Herceptin, and will also take an oral chemotherapy. Currently Troy and Heather are crossing their fingers that the insurance company comes through as each medicine costs $10,000 per month. This amount does include the other medicines that she is currently on.

Heather has been very strong through these past couple of years, but Troy has played a very important part in this battle as well. He has been by her side through all of this, but not only has he been a strong husband for Heather, he has also taken on the role of “Mom” when Heather is too weak or sick to help. They have done a very good job with their children by trying to make their childhood as “normal” as possible. They keep them active with outside activities and Laurel continues to strive in school. Although Lucas is a little young to understand what truly is going on with his mom, Laurel understands that her mom is sick and things are not right. She is a tough little girl, but she needs her mom.

Heather has had many ups and downs through these past couple of years. She is a fighter and will continue to do so through this third round of breast cancer. She wants to be a breast cancer survivor…. a very OLD survivor. She wants to see her kids grow up and we as a family plan to help her every step of the way.

Visit Heather’s CaringBridge site.

Tammy Newton

Tammy Newton graduated from Corning in 1981. Back then, she would never have dreamt that she would become an avid runner, but that’s what she is today. Like many, Tammy struggled with her weight but found that running helped her take it off. She runs races in the Des Moines area where she now lives. With the encouragement of co-workers, she ran her first marathon (26.2 miles) in 2007 in Nashville, TN.

That run in Nashville inspired her to encourage others to attempt a marathon. Tammy is also a mentor for a high school program called See Us Run Des Moines (SRDM). SRDM is a program adopted in 2010 to assist students in running their first marathon. Tammy runs with various students giving of her time and talent. She doesn’t teach them to run but encourages them; giving them hope and confidence to know that they can achieve their dreams. But Tammy would not say she is giving them anything, because she feels they are giving her so much back. The smiles and laughter when they finish their first races brought tears of joy to her eyes. She has gained so much from them.

To date, Tammy has completed 7 marathons. The last one being in New York City on November 7. She was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer just weeks before the marathon and treatment began as soon as she came back.

Tammy had surgery on Nov 17 and chemo treatments began on Dec 20. During this entire time, Tammy has continued her fitness routine. Even the days where she felt like staying in bed all day, she pushed through the miles to keep up her training. Tammy is very determined and head strong. She has resolved to keep up her running without the chemo treatments stopping her. It is not to say that some of the runs are easy, they have been very difficult for her to keep trudging through, but she is very strong and will not let this disease get in her way. Chemo treatments are testing her will power and strength. Tammy is relentless and is fighting the battle physically as well as mentally. She is definitely in control and will win this battle with breast cancer.

Tammy has her last dose of chemo on Monday, February 21. She will then start radiation hopefully within 2 weeks. She knows she will get stronger as the weeks go by; she has to. She plans to run the Fargo Marathon on May 21.

Tammy is an inspiration to all that know her. Her diligence and attitude through her diagnosis and treatments is unbelievable. There is no breast cancer in her family and she was curious why she would be strictened with this disease. She eats right and exercises religiously. She was told that one cause could have been because she did not have children. What a blow to hear that. She thought back to “why didn’t I”. “Should I have had children?”

When she started losing her hair, she shaved it off but missed a big spot in the back. She was told about it and laughed that she couldn’t see it and had no idea that she missed it. I asked if I could shave it into a heart; we did that the next day (along with people signing her new bald head). Her frame of mind is so positive and she is constantly thinking of others and how she can help someone else get through treatments like she is. What an inspiration she is. She was dealt some lemons and has made the best lemonade!

Tammy could definitely be helped financially but she will not ask for it. We all know how much it costs for surgery and treatments. Therefore, I would like to ask that you consider Tammy in your gift giving. She is truly an inspiration and a role model that many of us should emulate. There is no doubt that Tammy will win this race – she is strong, determined and an inspiration to so many.

Amy Rogers

Amy Rogers is one of the godliest young women a person could know. She is devoted to Christ and is a living testimony to all who know her. Amy knows the importance of spending time daily with God. She knows that God’s Word is truth. So, in John 16:33 when Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” Amy believed it. However, when she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer on February 25, 2011, at the young age of 31, her faith was put to the test.

Amy, a high school math teacher at Iowa Christian Academy, was already busy with her school year, planning the wedding of her life, and in the process of putting her home on the market. Her plate was plenty full. Since her diagnosis, God’s hand in her future endeavors became overwhelmingly evident. Test results showed that her cancer was not genetic, so she didn’t need to be concerned about passing it on to her children. Amy was able to get the best breast cancer surgeon in the area, a mother of one of her former ICA students. Amy had a successful lumpectomy on March 14, the Monday of Spring break – allowing her to only miss one week of school. The margins were clean, she experienced minimal pain and discomfort, and she had a quick recovery. The most recent news was that she could by-pass chemotherapy due to the low percentage rate of recurrence.

Amy has had many opportunities to share her story of faith through her experience. She has touched the lives of her students, colleagues, friends, family, and those who have had the good fortune of meeting Amy through this experience. Amy has used this “trouble” in her life to demonstrate God’s strength and mercy.

God has continually restored Amy to a state of joy and peace during this time. Amy’s life and experience is a living testimony of Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Visit Amy’s CaringBridge site.

Angie Plagman

I would like to nominate Mrs. Angie Plagman to be one of your crusaders. Angie is the type of person that is always seen with a smile, and even through her diagnoses and apprehensions about her upcoming surgeries and treatments, she has made it very clear that she has a positive outlook. Never once have I heard anything but an “I can do it!” attitude.

Angie is 37 years old and is originally from Peru, Iowa, a town of approximately 100 people on a good day! Her family moved to Casey Iowa 9 years ago to her husband’s family home. They have an 18 year old daughter, Chelsey, who will be starting college in the fall, a step son, Sabastian, who will be a senior and a cute little, curly blonde headed, 4 year old, Aliyah, that will be starting preschool.

Flipping through the pictures on Angie’s facebook page, other than a few Tim McGraw pictures, you find nothing but family fun… from softball games, to family dress up, to dancing lessons, to proms, to volleyball games, to silly faces with friends, to kisses, to jumping in leaves, and a few funny old high school pics… all with plenty of smiles. Family and friends are the center of her life as she continually supports her family and friends by attending many school and sporting events. She says she is constantly on the go at events, raising money for the school, or simply running the kids to lessons or practices. She was very touched by her daughter, Chelsey’s, act of unselfishness as she had been planning a trip to Costa Rica for the National Honor Society, but upon receiving the news of her mom’s cancer, cancelled her trip to remain by her mother’s side.

In late June of 2011, Angie found a lump in her left breast. Thinking it was nothing more than just a cyst, she still felt the need to be sure so she scheduled an appointment. After a mammogram and ultrasound of her breast, it was discovered that it seemed to be something more. She was devastated and very scared when she heard the news. A biopsy was scheduled for a week later and the results indicated that she did indeed have the dreaded words…breast cancer. Her actual diagnoses is ductual carcinoma, and she will have a double mastectomy in mid August. She did receive some comforting news that her lymph nodes were non cancerous and her body scan showed no other leisons or tumors anywhere except the one in her breast. This is a report she feels was answered by prayers from her “Army” that has been praying for her from the get-go. After her surgery in August, she will undergo chemo.

Her “Army” can be found on Facebook, created by one of her best friends. It is a group of all of her friends and relatives that send her thoughts, prayers and support to see her through this journey. She attributes her ability to deal with this obstacle with having a positive attitude, lots of prayers, and many family members and friends to help see her through.

From Angie, “I know I still have a long road ahead of me, but with my Army by my side, we will win this battle!”