10.21.2013 / Blog Posts Breast Cancer Awareness
During the month of October -- in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” initiative -- we are delighted to introduce a blog series spotlighting breast cancer survivors on WOWRedskins.com. This Breast Cancer Survivor Spotlight Series will share the inspiring stories of these extraordinary women and special WOW members with the Redskins community while continuing to raise breast cancer awareness and educate women about the importance of annual screenings.
Our next special WOW survivor spotlight features Judy Meyer, a 56-year old legal assistant and mother of three from Richmond, Virginia. Meyer was diagnosed in October 2008 with Stage I breast cancer, had a lumpectomy in December and finished chemo and radiation in April 2009. Meyer had no family history but lost her sister-in-law to breast cancer 15 years ago. Meyer schedules her annual mammograms in September of each year in her sister-in-law’s memory.
How long have you been a Redskins fan?
Judy Meyer: About 30 years. I married the biggest Redskins fan I know. I will be honest with you, he is the real fan. But from day one I got kind of sucked into it. So for 30 years I have been watching the Redskins too.
What is your favorite Redskins memory?
Judy Meyer: I was basically a newlywed and the Skins were getting ready to go to the Super Bowl. And my husband and his friends dressed up as Smurfs because that was the big thing back then. There were three players. And he and his two friends dressed up as the Smurfs. So that was the 1983 Super Bowl. I remember helping them get through that and make those decisions, and costume them and that type of stuff.
What is your game day ritual or superstition?
Judy Meyer: I don’t have one, but my husband is a nut about it. The whole day is planned around the game, embarrassingly so. It is like, when am I getting to church? Okay. When do the Skins play first? Okay. Then we decide when we are going to go to church and what we are going to have for dinner and what we are going to do. And everybody has their Redskin cups and their koozies and their shirts on. I have a great picture where the whole family has got their Redskins paraphernalia on to watch the game. And we always watch it at our house. We never really went anyplace else to watch it.
Who was your support system?
Judy Meyer: I had a great support system. I am a pretty tough cookie, so I’m not real needy in that way. I said I can take care of myself, I am fine. But everybody kind of found their niche. My husband, he fell right into the ranks of just doing laundry and cleaning the house, and taking care of stuff like that. That was his comfort zone. My daughters were more the caregivers in terms of, “Can I get you anything, mom? You need a nap, mom. Have you been drinking your liquids, mom?” I had a vast, vast support system if I wanted it. I didn’t need a whole lot because I had my husband and my three girls. But neighbors were volunteering to go to chemo with me. My boss, the work people. I couldn’t have kept my morale up if I didn’t have my support system. I realized how blessed I was. I said it time and time again to people. Being diagnosed with breast cancer, as tragic as that is, brought me far more blessings than it did hardships.
Is there anything you wish you knew before your diagnosis?
Judy Meyer: We were retired military, so medically and insurance-wise it was like an HMO where I had to find somebody to take my insurance. I found a network provider. I found a doctor and a radiation and a surgeon – everybody under the same hospital. But I could not find my oncologist. I had to go to a completely different hospital for that and it was not convenient. Looking back, I would have put my foot down and told my insurance company, you’d better make this happen. I would definitely tackle that all differently. I would have tried to get everybody under the same roof -- radiation, surgeon, oncologist. And I didn’t stop working. I was a hard head. And I look back now and I probably should have. I would have had more stamina. Why did I put myself through that? I didn’t have to prove anything to anybody. So I was just very practical about it, and I think in hindsight I wish I would have taken more time off.
What have you learned about yourself from your experience?
Judy Meyer: I really remember saying to myself constantly, I am going to control it, it is not going to control me. And I didn’t think I had that in me, but I did. So I told my cancer when I was going to be sick. And I told my cancer when I was going to work and I was so scared that it was going to start controlling me, that I controlled it. And I didn’t think I had that strength in me. And so, I did. It was just the first thing I said is, I’ll be damned if they are going to tell me when I am going to be sick and when I am going to not feel up to doing what I want to do.
My middle daughter was really big into the Virginia Tech Relay for Life and I was at my sickest. I couldn’t stand. I could barely breathe. And I remember saying, I’m going. I’m going to that thing. I am going to nap before I go. I am going to get a hotel room and nap before I go to the event. And you know, I just – I am not going to let cancer control me. I am going to control it. And so I learned that about myself, that in order to get through any hardship, you just gotta do that.
How did the Redskins impact your journey?
Judy Meyer: It was football season when I was sick. It was a big help to know that every Sunday or Monday night that we were going to do that all together. That even if I was sick and laying on the sofa, everybody was rallying around. And it was motivating being able to see my family being able to focus on something else besides me and still bring a party atmosphere into my house. Like a tailgate type of atmosphere. It was refreshing for me to know that my husband and my girls -- my husband and my girls are the real fans -- that they had that distraction for that two or three hours every Sunday. That was helpful to me.
If there’s one thing you would share with other women reading this story, what would it be?
Judy Meyer: You have a choice. You can either let cancer control you – and to a certain extent, it is going to -- or you can control it. You can say I am just going to live my life. I am going to live my life as if I wasn’t even sick, up to the best of my ability. Because it is very easy to crawl under the covers and feel sorry for yourself. But guess what? It is going to be pretty much a one year process between diagnosis and the chemo and and trying to get your strength back up. Do you really want to look back and say you missed a year of your life? It’s not horrible and it’s not as debilitating as it can be, unless you choose to let it get you that way. And it does give you some perspective. I have always said everybody should get diagnosed with something at some point in their lives because boy does it really make you think about things and it gives you a good perspective on what to do with the rest of your life, and what is important and what is not.
Amanda Rykoff is a New York City-based sports writer. She’s a proud Penn alum, recovering attorney, devoted aunt, and voracious consumer of media. She has contributed to espnW.com, The Outside Corner, ONE World Sports, Sports On Earth, The Football Girl and other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter (@amandarykoff).
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