Judith “Judee” Wall says that whenever she sees one of the women who gave her support during her time with breast cancer, there is an “instant bond” and a hug for a greeting.
It was very difficult to hear her diagnosis during the summer of 1995, she said.
“When I found out about my breast cancer, I was so angry,” she recalled last weekend while walking in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life fundraiser in Princeton. “It was not in my plans to have cancer. I was remodeling a house (in Milaca), working like crazy to get it done and paid for.”
As the result of her cancer, she had her left breast removed on her 55th birthday on Nov. 9, 1995.
“Eighteen years later, I was brave enough to get a reconstruction,” she said.
Wall, who lived in Milaca most of her life and now lives in Foley, said that both her maternal grandmother and a daughter are breast cancer survivors. Because she saw them survive, she didn’t think of cancer as a “killer,” she said.
But later, at about the same time as when Wall was diagnosed with cancer, her niece was diagnosed with the same cancer and died two years later at age 43. The niece left behind two children, ages 6 and 9.
Wall said that as she ponders the death of her niece, she wonders: “Why are my children grown and I’m still here?”
But also because of her cancer experience, she gained lifelong friends in the women who gave her support during that time.
“There were women who rallied for me right from the start,” she said.
Wall, who was a hairdresser in her early years and who later drove semitrailers for 14 years with her now late husband, notes that today she has been cancer-free for 19 years.