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Cancer patient talks about her medical journey; emphasizes importance of yearly testing

Charlotte Bolander did all the right things. She followed through with her yearly medical examinations. And now she's glad she did.

Earlier this year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The 53-year-old Thomson woman is now undergoing chemotherapy treatments. She has another week of such treatment before she begins radiation - all in an effort to rid the cancer that invaded her left breast.

"Every since I was 40, I've gone to the doctor to get my yearly pap smear examination and mammogram," said Ms. Bolander during a recent interview. "I did the same this year, but I didn't get the kind of news that I'd been getting - that everything was all right. Two days after my mammogram, I got a telephone call from my doctor telling me that I needed to return to his office."

Ms. Bolander sensed something was wrong. But she didn't know what.

"When my doctor told me that I had breast cancer, I just broke down right there and started crying," she recalled. "I couldn't believe it at first. It was shocking. It took a few days for it to all sink in - that I was like other people I had heard about - a cancer victim."

She said she couldn't recall having been that frightened in her life.

There was a time when Ms. Bolander thought of herself as being all alone. But that was before she decided to put God back into her life.

"Having cancer has put me back in touch with God and for that I'm very thankful," said Ms. Bolander, who had to quit work at the Pizza Hut in Washington after 23 years. "I realize now that no one can make it in life without God. It's a heck of a way to get back in touch with God, but that's what happened."

She soon discovered that not only was God there for her, but family members were, too.

Ms. Bolander, a graduate of Thomson High School, says her sisters, Barbara and Tamera, have provided her with love and help during her ordeal.

"I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been for them," said Ms. Bolander, who also receives help from her boyfriend and her brother. "It's so good to know you have somebody who can drive you back and forth to the doctors and to tell you things that you need to know about cancer."

Ms. Bolander said establishing a new personal relationship with God also has been "a real blessing" during this time.

"I've started going back to church and it's really helped me a lot in my spiritual life," said Ms. Bolander. "Margaret Sharpe has helped me to understand that God is going to be with me through all of this. I have placed my trust back in the Lord thanks to her."

Getting cancer has placed her in financially rough shape.

"A lot of my bills are past due and I've had to turn to churches in the area to help me," said Ms. Bolander, noting she is most appreciative of the help that she has received. "When you get cancer, it affects your whole life - not just your body."

She is hopeful of getting back on her feet after she undergoes several radiation treatments.

"Being out of work this long has really left me in a bind," said Ms. Bolander. "It's been real tough. But I'm determined to remain as positive as I can with God's help. I pray to Him every day that things will get better."

She has an important message for women: continue to get annual checkups. "And if you're not doing that, please start. Early detection could save your life. I'm living proof."

Web posted on Thursday, June 11, 2009

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