Bethany Winsor and Mike Gregory agree that cancer is a long journey.
“And you never know how long,” said Winsor, who was 27 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The now 32-year-old said it caused her to re-evaluate a lot of areas of her life, including her career path, because she was in graduate school for Middle East studies when she was diagnosed.
Gregory, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at age 65, said the average age to be diagnosed with the blood and bone marrow cancer is 65.
“I’m quite average, I guess,” Gregory, 67, said drolly.
Gregory is more serious as he talks about the months he spent in and out of the hospital over the past couple of years, causing him to miss ski trips — something he’s looking forward to in the new year since his doctor gave him the OK.
Winsor and Gregory will be two of the 13 models at the You’re Beautiful! Style Show and Luncheon on Jan. 25. It is designed to celebrate cancer survivors as well as remember those who battled cancer.
The funds raised from the event go to the American Cancer Society to pay for cancer research and Denton County cancer patient services. Since 2004, the event has raised more than $360,000.
Winsor has attended the event as a guest but said it will be different to be involved this year. Her artwork is on the front of the invitations sent out by event officials.
It’s a photo of the Old Alton Bridge with lavender petals, because it’s the 10th anniversary of the event.
It represents the long, unknown journey through cancer, Winsor said. The bridge represents the support of family, friends and doctors who help through the transition, she said.
Gregory calls You’re Beautiful an “uplifting event.” He plans to have fun with it.
He wears a hat because his hair hasn’t fully grown back and will be representing Foster’s Western Wear and Saddle Shop at the fundraiser.
Pat Sherman, co-chairwoman of the event, said Gregory was going to be one of the escorts last year but wasn’t able to because of the cancer.
After completing a chemotherapy treatment, Gregory’s doctors thought the cancer was gone, but it came back in January 2012.
He had a bone marrow transplant in March. The bone marrow came from a 22-year-old man that Gregory hopes to meet and thank one day.
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not,” he said, adding that a year after the transplant, both the donor and the recipient can choose to meet.
His minister and immediate family held a blessing of the transplant before it was done, he said.
The transplant itself wasn’t bad, he said, but recovering from the procedure was difficult.
Gregory said his faith as well as the support of his family and church helped him through his journey.
“I felt like I was on a big wave of support,” he said.
A website called Caring Bridge helped him keep family and friends updated. It also was therapeutic for his wife to write journal entries, he said.
Gregory said he learned other people were in the same boat. He and his wife got to know others and prayed with other patients on his floor at Baylor Hospital in Dallas.
His first wife and his mother both died of cancer.
“I’ve been a caregiver to cancer folks,” he said.
Winsor said she had a different experience than Gregory because of her age.
Her grandma had breast cancer, but was in her 80s when she was diagnosed.
When Winsor first found a lump, one of her friends convinced her to go back to the doctor and have them investigate further.
“When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone else around my age who had cancer,” she said.
She found First Descents, which offers outdoor adventure therapy for young adults with cancer.
Winsor went whitewater kayaking with others who were dealing with the same diagnosis.
“That’s how I made my support group,” she said.
She said it was inspiring to meet the people from the group.
After her diagnosis, Winsor decided to pursue a management degree instead of Middle East studies.
“It definitely made me grow up a lot,” she said.
Because cancer treatment is expensive, Winsor relied on her parents for help.
Winsor said she isn’t religious but considers herself spiritual. This journey has taught her the goodness in other people, she said.
Gregory said his diagnosis showed him he needs to enjoy life more. He wanted to spend time with his grandchildren.
“I had all sorts of reasons to push on,” he said.
Their advice: hang in there and realize life will be different.
Winsor calls cancer a change, a catalyst. Don’t be afraid to accept help, Winsor said, because the journey can be isolating and lonely.
“It’s a learning experience,” Gregory adds. “You see how you’re treated and you want to treat others well.”
RACHEL MEHLHAFF can be reached at 940-566-6889. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
IF YOU GO
- What: You’re Beautiful! Style Show and Luncheon to benefit the American Cancer Society
- When: noon Jan. 25
- Where: University of North Texas Gateway Center, on the corner of Eagle Drive and North Texas Boulevard
- Details: Tickets cost $50 each; underwriting begins at $250 and up. For more information, contact Janet Mulroy at 940-382-3396 for tickets or Alice Masciarelli at 940-321-9446 for underwriting.