Not once, but twice diagnosed, battled, and beat breast cancer. This is what happened to one of my best friends, Peggy Markovic. In the spirit of raising awareness of breast cancer prevention, I asked Peggy if she would be willing to share her story and she accepted. Here I will share a bit of our background for context, her journey, and advice to reduce risk of this horrific illness.
Peggy and I have worked together for 20 years, meeting in 2000. At the time we worked in two learning and development departments within the same organization that merged. We supported different internal clients so we didn’t spend that much time together initially. That changed in 2001 when we were both in leadership roles within the team and our work and personal relationship took off from there.
We are different and alike in so many ways. She is detail and process oriented and my natural preference is – gut feel. In working with Peggy as leadership colleagues for 18 years you can imagine we butted heads often with our style preferences. Well, we did but boy did we make each other better and that combination was great in a team environment.
We have a brother/sister type of relationship. We can debate and differ on a position, are brutally honest with each other and trust each other with anything. We know whatever disagreement we have it’s not personal and move on. If I need to vent or get an opinion on something sensitive, she has been that go to person.
Outside of work we realized we had so many things in common. We both were married, raising children, loved sports, and eating. We valued the same things in life and that bonded us. Peggy’s husband, Michael, was and is a master griller and I was learning the craft while tailgating at University of Central Florida football games. In 2004, Peggy, Michael, and their two boys, Patrick and Brendan made a trip to Orlando to visit Peggy’s sister and joined me at a game. It’s a memory I will never forget and we’ve watched the boys and my daughter, Morgan, grow up all the way through the college years and then some…
Our friendship and work relationship just grew over all these years and that is with us living 950 miles apart as Peggy and family live in Baltimore and I live in the Tampa Bay area. Peggy is such a strong woman. You wouldn’t have known she was battling cancer from an outside perspective. She was a fighter, never complained and I mean I never once heard Peggy complain.
Peggy is a private person but she is open about this story in an effort to save lives. And that is Peggy – it’s never about her. She is always looking out, volunteering her time, money and energy to help others. Here is how Peggy describes her battle:
My breast cancer journey started in 2000 with the first mammogram. The technician informed me of the importance of a good baseline test and how I may be called back to get a better image. The call came to retake the test and I didn’t think much about it since the technician set the expectation. After retaking the test and waiting patiently for the results, I found out I had breast cancer. To say the diagnosis rocked my world is an understatement. I was married with two children under the age of 5 and no family history of breast cancer. I was totally unprepared.
The outpouring of support I received from family and friends was overwhelming. My husband was my rock and my faith kept me grounded. I am grateful for the care I received and the ability to grow stronger from this difficult experience. I vowed to improve my work/life balance and value the blessings of each day.
Life went on and I was busy working and raising my sons. I wanted to help others impacted by the disease and became an active volunteer to raise funds to assist with financial needs and to raise funds for the local hospital’s breast center.
I kept up with my annual mammogram and my stress level increased as the test date came closer. I felt more confident as the years went by that there wouldn’t be a reoccurrence. Finally, came a year I wasn’t as stressed about it, and that was the year I was diagnosed for the second time. It was twelve years since the original diagnosis.
So much changed from 2000. The hospital had a wing dedicated to treating breast cancer patients. My original doctors had retired so I met with new doctors. My sons were old enough to understand I had cancer and the conversation with them was one of the hardest discussions my husband and I have ever had. I was thankful my treatment ended with surgery and no need for radiation or chemotherapy.
The years have flown by and I’ve continued to help others by raising money, lending an ear, and doing whatever is needed to lighten the load of others. My advice is to have an annual mammogram as the test saved my life not once but twice. I wear pink as a constant reminder of my journey and how grateful I am to be alive.
In addition to Peggy, we lost two colleagues in our learning and development team in this period with the most recent loss of our manager and good friend at the time, Donna Singer. We think and talk about her often and feel such sympathy for her husband, Bob, who was her rock as she battled.
I’m sure we all know someone who has had, has, or lost the battle to breast cancer. As Peggy mentioned in her advice, it’s so important to have annual mammogram tests.
In a recent blog, Let’s Beat Breast Cancer, I shared information about the leading causes and how to reduce breast cancer risk. As in Peggy’s case, genetics plays a very small role in breast cancer risk. There are many things we can do in our control to reduce risk and that spans all cancers and other chronic illnesses.
Live life now. We never know when things can change. I am so happy for Peggy and her family that she won this battle twice and proud to have her as my friend.
– Add Health to Your Life