La Vonne Peterson wants people to know that there are many resources for those with cancer.
“There’s a plethora of resources out there, and I want to make people aware because no one should have to suffer through cancer alone,” Peterson said.
Peterson, this year’s Relay for Life grand marshal, would know.
After taking a shower one morning, her hand brushed up against her breast and felt something hard.
“I thought to myself ‘Oh my God, I have cancer,’” Peterson said.
On May 19, 2010, she was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer. She had a 3 centimeter lump in her breast. Peterson also had 11 lymph nodes removed, three of which were cancerous.
“I had a feeling the moment I felt a lump in my breast it was cancer,” she said.
The Brookings resident, who opened Barron’s Home Furnishings in 1996 with her husband Barron, was treated at Scripps Mercy Cancer Center in San Diego, Calif. after moving to San Diego so her daughter could attend an international studies high school there.
Peterson went through four months of chemotherapy and three weeks of radiation.
One of the hardest parts was losing her hair.
“It was just the most unfeminine thing to not have eyelashes to put mascara on,” she said.
It also was difficult for Peterson to have treatment dictate her life.
“It’s all-encompassing,” she said. “It takes over your life. It’s how you plan your day, your vacations, your diet. It’s how you plan your day, and it’s exhausting.”
In January 2011, after six months of treatment, Peterson was pronounced cancer free.
She was able to survive for her daughter Lina, who was 18 at the time.
“She’s my only child,” Peterson said. “She was afraid I was going to die. I didn’t really believe I was going to die. I didn’t feel God was finished with me yet.”
She survived because of early detection as well – she had a mammogram the year before she was diagnosed.
Now that she’s overcome cancer, the little things don’t bother Peterson anymore.
“It’s made me more grateful and patient,” she said.
In October 2011, Peterson and her husband moved back to Brookings because their daughter is in college at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Peterson now works at Curry Medical Center.
Upon her return, she met the Relay for Life committee, and was asked to be grand marshal.
She feels “shocked and honored” to play such an important role at what will be her first Relay.
“The core message I want to share with people is that cancer touches everyone in some way or another,” Peterson said. “That being said, it’s very easy to feel alone. Even among friends and family a cancer patient can feel alone.”
One resource cancer patients can always call is the 800 number for the American Cancer Society, Peterson said.
A kind person will answer the phone and direct people to medical resources, transportation, where to get wigs and other information, she added.
“I thought I knew a lot about cancer, and what it might be like to have cancer, but I didn’t know anything,” Peterson said. “You don’t ‘get it’ unless you’ve had it.”
Relay for Life will be held July 13 and 14 at the Brookings-Harbor High School track.