20 year survivor not taking any risks

By Jennifer Ely
Caledonia Argus

Twenty year cancer survivor Shirlee Lenser says nothing but prayers, support and more prayers is the reason she has been cancer free for two decades and still counting.

Lenser regularly visited the Caledonia Clinic and had routine mammogram check-ups. Lenser was blessed with a clean bill of health after one particular check-up.

Unfortunately, eight months later after a self-examination Lenser felt a lump in her breast. Taking action right away, she went to her doctor at the beginning of the week explaining she had found something on her breast. They took a biopsy of the lump and had to share the horrible news that the lump was cancerous.

Immediately Lenser told her family, who didn’t really have time to react. They just stood by her side ready to be there for her whenever she needed them. Lenser had amazing support from her customers at the American Legion as well, she said.

That following Monday, on May 18, 1992, Lenser underwent a mastectomy.

She had great help and support from the Caledonia Clinic as well Dr. Fleischman and his nurse, Gloria Schroder.

Lenser said Schroder was the best help whenever she had any questions or concerns.

“Gloria was always there to help or just to talk whenever needed,” Lenser said.

The small lump found on Lenser’s breast was biopsied and was determined to be a fast growing breast cancer.

After surgery Lenser had to endure chemotherapy so her chances of the breast cancer coming back would be lowered. She did as the doctors told her and went through four chemo treatments.

“Chemo was awful. I threw up for a day and half after I was given the chemo. Of course with my luck when I was just starting to feel a little bit better from the chemo, I had to go receive chemo again. I had to go through chemo every three weeks,” Lenser recalled.

Lenser is a bartender at the American Legion in Caledonia where word spread fast about her condition.

“I was open talking to my customers about my cancer. I cried every time I told the story. I was only 43 years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I thought this was impossible. I had a mammogram every year. No one in my family has had breast cancer and I have four sisters. So, for me to be diagnosed with breast cancer was a complete surprise,” Lenser said.

But Lenser’s surgery and the chemo treatments brought the problem to a halt and she has been breast cancer free since.

Today, Lenser carries on with her day-to-day life doing her normal activities, but she said she is always weary when she has to go back to the doctor for a mammogram.

The thought of her nightmare becoming reality again is the worst fear of all.

She said she can’t express enough how important it is to get your regular mammogram.

“It’s not a risk worth taking to skip a mammogram because unexpected news can come true faster than you think,” Lenser said.