Cheryl Anderson and her husband are avid cyclists. The couple from Jacksonville, Florida, were planning a bike tour through the Black Hills of South Dakota when unexpected news threatened to derail their trip.
Cheryl was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.
“No one was more surprised than I,” she says. “I’ve always been health-conscious. I regularly exercise, eat right and take care of myself.”
Anderson, 69, underwent surgery to remove the tumor. She received good news — her cancer hadn’t spread.
Still, her doctor mentioned using chemotherapy to wipe out any remaining cancer cells.
“That’s when I got scared,” Anderson says. “I didn’t want to be sick or lose my hair. The cancer didn’t scare me, but the chemo did.”
Genomic testing helps determine the best treatment options
Jennifer Crozier, M.D., a breast medical oncologist at Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville, recommended genomic testing.
In this procedure, doctors take tissue from a patient’s tumor, then sequence the cancer cells’ DNA. This provides important clues about the risk of recurrence. It also helps determine which treatments, including chemotherapy, will or will not work.
“DNA sequencing helps us determine if the breast cancer cells are actually going to respond to the chemotherapy,” Crozier says. “It’s estimated that 100,000 women in the United States will avoid chemo this year – and the toxicity associated with it – thanks to this new testing.”
Anderson is happy to be one of them.
“I was so relieved,” says the retired teacher who taught at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. “I like to keep moving, and I knew chemo would slow me down.”
Radiation therapy – and no side effects
Instead of chemo, Anderson went through five weeks of radiation therapy and experienced no side effects. The day after her last treatment, she and her husband took off for South Dakota, where they joined 600 other cyclists for three days of riding the 109-mile George S. Mickelson Trail, a repurposed former railroad line that winds through mountains, forests and tunnels, and across more than 100 converted railroad bridges.
Anderson continues to work part-time as an interpreter for the deaf. And she’s already planning her next cycling trip.
“Get the most out of life and stay positive,” she says. “Attitude is everything.”
About Baptist MD Anderson
As a partner member of MD Anderson Cancer Network®, Baptist MD Anderson is a co-branded, clinical extension of MD Anderson that is fully integrated with Baptist Health.
In the summer of 2018, Baptist expanded cancer care for adult patients in Northeast Florida with the opening of a new nine-story cancer center.
Input from Baptist patients and team members helped shape the design of the new center in order to deliver the best possible patient-focused experience. A clinical team and patient advisory group, in coordination with the design and construction team, made recommendations on everything from how patients move through the center, to the equipment used to make treatments as comfortable as possible.