CROSBY -- Paula Redemske was 36 and the mother of three young children when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Now six years later Redemske remains cancer-free, and is hoping to spread the word that breast cancer is treatable and its diagnosis doesn't equal a death sentence.
Redemske has been selected as honorary breast cancer survivor chair for the Brainerd Lakes Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation Breast Cancer Race for the Cure set June 28 in Brainerd. The event raises money for breast cancer education, screenings and treatment programs within Cass and Crow Wing counties, as well as breast cancer research.
Redemske said she has always tried to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's what she teaches her patients at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, where she works as director of nutritional services for the medical facility.
She jogs 3-1/2 miles or works out on her elliptical machine for 30 minutes six or seven days a week. She has never smoked. She has no family history of breast cancer. She and her husband, Mark, have three children. At the time of her diagnosis in 1997, their children were 4, 3, and 7 months.
At 36, Redemske felt she was not only too young, but she was simply too busy to have breast cancer. That's why she wants younger women to know it could happen to them, too.
"I feel that I can show people that at 36 years old, it does happen," said Redemske. "What I tell people is breast cancer is curable. It's not as scary as it used to be before I was diagnosed. It's treatable. You don't have to fear death because of the word 'cancer.'"
A week before she was diagnosed, Redemske had surgery to correct a bleeding duct in her breast. She had recently had a baby, so she believed the necessary surgery was due to the pregnancy, breast-feeding or trauma, but not cancer.
The pathology report came back after the surgery, determining that Redemske had ductal carcinoma in situ.
Two hours later, her husband called her at work to tell her that a friend of theirs was just diagnosed with breast cancer. And for the first time, Redemske said "so was I."
That summer, Redemske went through four surgeries and 25 radiation treatments. While there were times when she felt tired from the radiation, she said friends, family and co-workers were supportive. They prepared meals for her family and cleaned the house. Her children at the time weren't fully aware of what she was going through. They just knew that their mom was sick sometimes and needed to sleep, she said.
Redemske became involved with Race for the Cure in Brainerd during the first race four years ago. She's ran in the event every year. Her entire family plans to participate this year, including her parents, Don and Mary Dravis of Staples.
Honorary chair will be Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn.
The Komen Brainerd Lakes Race for the Cure, a 5K walk/run and 1-mile family fun walk, will be June 28 at the Brainerd High School athletic field. Packet pickup and same day registration begins 7 a.m., with an aerobic warm-up at 8 a.m., and a breast cancer survivor photo at 8:20 a.m. The 5K run starts at 8:30 a.m. with the 5K walk to start at 8:35 a.m. The awards ceremony and prize drawings will be 10 a.m.
For more information on Race for the Cure, visit the Web site, www.brainerdlakesrace.org. Entry forms also are available at area Ford dealers, Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce, Brainerd Community Action, Cuyuna Range Chamber of Commerce, Nisswa Chamber of Commerce and other area businesses.
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