The Gazette is partnering with title sponsor Penrose-St. Francis Breast Care Center and ribbon sponsor Peak Vista Community Health Centers to bring you inspiring stories of local breast cancer survivors and a behind-the-scenes look at the care process from physicians, surgeons, nurses and volunteers throughout October.
For five years, breast cancer affected many of Chris Madison’s closest family members and friends: her sister and niece were both diagnosed and she lost a coworker and her sister in law to the disease. “Seemed I’d just been surrounded by it,” she said.
After returning home to Colorado Springs from her sister in law’s memorial service at the beginning of this year in Texas, Madison celebrated her sixtieth birthday, followed the next week by her own aggressive breast cancer diagnosis. “It was so hard to believe that after having been around it, now I had it. I was in a place of numbness, just truly in shock.”
Madison had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and affected breast tissue, followed by treatment at Penrose Cancer Center, including chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation therapy. Penrose Cancer Center is part of the Centura Health Cancer Network, delivering advanced, integrated cancer care across Colorado and western Kansas. Madison’s final radiation treatment was August 26. “The nursing staff and my doctors were amazing, incredible people,” she said.
Since breast cancer obviously ran in Madison’s family, she opted to receive genetic testing to understand her future risks. “What I found out was that it wasn’t necessarily from aunts or my parents, but second and first cousins. It was interesting to learn that it wasn’t as direct as you might suspect.”
Madison does credit her family with supporting her in her cancer journey, along with her fiancé Mike Foster. “It was like God sent me an angel,” she said. “We were childhood sweethearts, we knew each other in junior high and high school back in Kansas City.” The couple reconnected at their 40-year high school class reunion in 2013. “He’d been a caretaker of his wife of 39 years for the last 14 years of their marriage – she had everything but cancer,” Madison said. Since reconnecting, the pair has had ample opportunity to care for each other through the ups and downs of breast cancer and other health issues.
“During something like this, you find out how loved you really are,” Madison said. “I have never felt so much love as the day we were in the car going to my first chemo appointment. I felt physically lifted up and I knew it was my family and friends thinking of me, loving and praying for me.”