Janie McLeod is many things: a mother, grandmother and hardworking employee for the city of Denton. One thing she says that has bettered her life, though, was unexpected. This year marks seven years since McLeod was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
She didn’t have mammograms done routinely, but she said she tried as best she could.
“I am so thankful to the city that they provide free health fairs for their employees,” McLeod said.
The health fair, she said, was where she first learned something wasn’t right.
“I didn’t learn right there I had breast cancer, but I learned I needed to go have additional testing done, which ultimately led to the diagnosis,” she said.
After her October 2006 diagnosis, McLeod said she was scheduled to have surgery to remove the cancer that December and started preparing for the worst.
“I had my will complete and everything,” she said.
What McLeod quickly learned was that all the worrying wasn’t doing any good, she said, and she actually was blessed to have caught the cancer early.
“After my surgery, I started my first of 28 radiation treatments,” McLeod said.
She said she was able to make a friend while going through the treatments, and the friend helped make her days much better.
“Everyone was just so sick and here we were, looking at each other comparing our blistered skin and laughing together,” McLeod said. “Everyone — friends, family and work — was so supportive.”
She said that’s when she instantly discovered not to take anything for granted.
“Some people were terribly ill and having to drive hours just to seek treatment, and here in Denton, we are lucky to have those specialized doctors right in our backyard.”
A moment of coincidence
About three years ago, McLeod, the community events coordinator for the city, was sitting in her office discussing bringing the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to Denton.
“Little did they know I was a breast cancer survivor myself and had been wanting to bring this event to our town,” she said.
One thing led to another, and soon the city was planning the first race.
This year, McLeod will be a New Balance honorary member.
“It’s a nice gesture — New Balance will feature me on their website along with all their other nationwide honorary members, and they sent me a whole new outfit, complete with pink running shoes, to wear during the race,” she said.
Not only does she have a helping hand at bringing Susan G. Komen to Denton for the third straight year, she is leading the way — literally.
McLeod will be leading the survivor’s portion of the run/walk at the third annual Susan G. Komen North Texas Denton Race for the Cure at South Lakes Park on Saturday.
She will be walking alongside her daughter, Julie Laughter, and her two granddaughters, Alyssa and Emily Laughter.
McLeod said that she is doing the Komen walk for all three of them.
“I believe education is key and, hopefully, one day there will be a cure,” she said. “By taking part, the funds raised will one day bring us closer.”
McLeod said she has a son, Mike, who is 22, and he is aware of the importance of regular health exams.
“Even men can get breast cancer — it’s not just something just a woman can have,” she said.
McLeod had another scare about a month ago, but soon discovered it was nothing to worry about.
“You are never 100 percent certain it will not return,” she said.
One thing is for certain, she said, and that’s the outpouring of love from her family.
She said she couldn’t have made it at all without the support of her husband, Cliff.
“He was my rock,” McLeod said. “We have been married for 29 years and look forward to many more.”
When asked about the bouquet of pink carnations on her desk, McLeod said she buys them every Monday.
“If someone walks into my office and appreciates the beauty of the flowers, then that makes my day,” she said. “It’s really the little things in life that make me most happy these days.”
The bottom line, McLeod said, is that blessings truly come not only in all shapes and sizes, but different disguises.
“Who would’ve thought breast cancer would be a blessing?” she asked. “Going through something really just helps you sit back and acknowledge so many moments one misses while hurrying throughout their day.”
Stop and smell the flowers, indeed.
MEGAN GRAY can be reached at 940-566-6885 and via Twitter at @MGrayNews.
RACE FOR THE CURE
What: Third annual Susan G. Komen North Texas Denton Race for the Cure at South Lakes Park
When: All day Saturday — survivor ceremony begins at 10 a.m.
How to participate: Register online at www.komennorthtexas.org until 5 p.m. Friday. Same-day registration begins at 6 a.m.
Cost: Adult $35, senior and youth $20, student $25, babies $10 — when babies are registered, they receive a race-themed feeding bib. Can’t make it? Sleep In for the Cure is $45, and you can participate virtually — with a free cozy blanket — by registering on the site mentioned above.