Arkansas hero wears a pink cape

Searcy, Ark., (LP)  In the U.S., one of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point throughout their life.  According to recent data, older women are more likely to develop the disease than younger women.  The absolute risk for breast cancer in a young woman in one year is considerably low; one for every four thousand per se.  In Arkansas as of 2014, the incidence rate of the diagnosis of breast cancer was 113.9 per 100,000 women.  In 2015, Mrs. Linda Marek, a resident of Arkansas, was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.

Michelle Conrad with her mother, Linda Marek, at a cancer walk

Her daughter, Michelle Conrad, explained how she felt the moment she and the rest of the family learned of her mother’s diagnosis.  “I was devastated.  I was scared, worried, lost; my whole world stopped.  Life as I had known it had changed.  I felt as if I had been punched in the stomach.  I can not imagine my life without my mother.”  Many families in the U.S. share the mutual feelings of fear, devastation, and worry that Michelle and her family live with every day.  Besides skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst American women.  It is estimated that in 2017, thirty percent of new cancers diagnosed in women will be breast cancers.

Linda’s granddaughter, Maddie Cossitt, weighed in on the matter, offering advice to anyone else whose family member is suffering from cancer.  “Please spend all the time you can with them.  I’m in college about two and a half hours away, and I regret it every day that I am not close to my Nana.  I talk to her each day, but I feel like that because I’m away, I can’t give her the support she needs.  So if you are able, please be there for your sick loved ones.  Give them an adequate support team.  It means more to them than most people realize.  Also, talk to them.  Make an effort to learn about the disease.  Most people with cancer feel like they can’t talk about cancer to anyone because no one understands.  Letting them vent to you means more than you will ever know.”  If you have a loved one with this disease, take care and consideration when asking them questions and/or trying to be there for them.  Michelle said that it is very important that you aren’t pushy and that you give them time to soak it in.

Women with an immediate relative that has the cancer (mother, daughter, sister) have a nearly doubled risk of having the disease.  As Linda’s daughter, Michelle has a higher risk than most people of obtaining the disease. “I’m not sure how high the risk is for me to have the disease, but I think of it often.  Everyone should get yearly mammograms.”  Whether you have a high risk or not, regarding any illness or disease, it is vital that you get checkups as often as necessary.  After a long, difficult journey, Linda Marek was rid of her breast cancer.  Hope was regenerated as the family celebrated the good news.  Some tests were conducted after some time though, and the reports were not the best.  The cancer has now spread to her back and is continuing to spread.  The journey will be yet again long and difficult, but according to relatives and friends, Mrs. Linda is an independent, strong woman; she is brave and serves as an inspiration to all who have heard her story thus far.  Her advice to anyone else facing similar circumstances is to have faith in what will be, remain strong, stay hopeful, and be courageous.

Mrs. Linda showing us all what it means to be a fighter

The family refers to Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” as Mrs. Linda’s anthem.

“This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”

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