Moving forward, giving back; Her own cancer in remission, Lisa Preuss celebrates with a fundraiser for those less fortunate
Last Saturday night, 32-year-old Lisa Preuss and her family, friends and neighbors took to the dance floor to celebrate victory after a seven-month battle with breast cancer.
Officially in remission, Preuss completed her final round of radiation Oct. 30, and wanted to celebrate surrounded by the people who helped her make it through.
More than 200 visitors stopped by the New York Mills City Hall Ballroom for a fundraiser in her honor Saturday night, helping raise more than $3,000 in a silent auction and free will donation. The Preuss family chose to donate those funds to the American Cancer Society's Bras on Broadway group, which helps cancer victims by providing gas cards, wigs and housing accommodations.
"I wanted to give back to other breast cancer patients that weren't as fortunate as I was," Preuss said in an interview on Monday.
"Jeff and I were very fortunate to have a good insurance plan to cover expenses," she explained. Plus, she was able to continue working at Farmers Union Insurance through most of her treatment process.
Preuss will continue to have regular check-ups for any signs of the cancer's return.
"My next check up is in December," she said.
And though she is confident that her treatments have removed all the cancer cells, Preuss said the road to getting cancer-free felt long.
Preuss discovered the lump in her breast herself, in early spring.
"I had a bad feeling from the moment I found it, but I was hopeful," she said.
With no family history of cancer, an actual diagnosis of the disease seemed unlikely. But as it turned out, her instincts were right.
On April 3, at the age of 31, Preuss was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. Within two weeks, she had a lumpectomy to remove the tumor. She found out the cancer hadn't spread, but still followed her surgery with eight sessions of chemotherapy over a 16-week period, then went to daily radiation treatments over six weeks.
"It was scary to get started," Preuss said, but, "once I got started and knew what to expect, it was kind of routine."
Shortly after the diagnosis, Lisa and her husband, Jeff, had to explain the upcoming treatment process to their two young daughters, 5-year-old Ava and 3-year-old Alivia, as well as Lisa's stepsons, 17-year-old Cody and 19-year-old Tyler.
Using a book a friend found for them on the Internet, Lisa and Jeff sat down with the girls to explain the situation. Afterward, the girls understood that medicine would make mom's hair come out as well as make her sick, but they didn't really understand the concept of cancer, Preuss explained.
The boys were scared, as one would expect, but were reassured once surgery determined the cancer hadn't spread.
"Both boys stepped up and helped with their sisters and with yard work when needed, although we didn't want my diagnosis to change their lives too dramatically, so we continued to let them spend time with their friends and at school activities as they normally would have," Preuss said.
Preuss lost her hair after her second round of chemotherapy.
"That was one of the hardest parts," she said.
She tried a wig for a couple of days, and then switched to a scarf, which she found more comfortable.
Losing her hair "didn't really upset (the girls) at all, but they thought it was silly and they called it my boy haircut."
And though Preuss still wears her scarf, her hair is starting to grow back, just a shade darker than before.
"We feel very fortunate to live here. The community (of NY Mills) was very supportive and quick to help in any way that they could," Preuss said.
Whether it was her parents, Jerry and Jeri Nesland, or her friends, Preuss was amazed at the amount of support the community gave.
In October, the volleyball team organized a "pink-out," for which everyone wore pink shirts and passed around a pink purse. They collected around $600 through this event, helping the Preuss family meet their insurance deductible.
Due to donations from local businesses in NY Mills, the Preuss's didn't have any expenses for the celebration on Saturday, making it possible to donate more to the American Cancer Society.
In addition to the Bras on Broadway event, Preuss and her family and friends also had a team in the local Relay for Life last summer, which raised more than $4,000 for cancer research.