Human Hero

Human Hero

For each PuppyUp Walk, the Event Manager and their Walk Team select both a Human Cancer Hero and a Canine Cancer Hero, to be honored during the Walk ceremonies.

These Heroes are chosen because of their exemplary attitude towards their particular type of cancer, showing bravery and hopefulness in their fight against this terrible disease.

Introducing our 2019 Human Cancer Hero, Brenda Farmer.

This is her cancer story:


First of all let me say, I am no kind of hero. I don’t wear a cape, and I have far more fears than I have strengths. But truly we are ALL heroes, in someone’s eyes. You see, we all have our moments of strength and our moments of weaknesses. Any given day we can have many of each. So you see, you are also heroes in the eyes of others. I am just one of you, an “ordinary hero” that just tries every day to make someone’s day just a little bit better.

I was 39 years old and went for my very first mammogram. I had been laid off from my job, was taking some final exams to “hopefully” get into nursing school. I had a daughter in her first year of college and my husband, Bruce, was trying to keep us all afloat until I could get through school and back to work. I had one shot of getting into nursing school, if that didn’t happen, I was going to have to find a full-time job—and quick.

I went for my annual GYN exam. My doctor said since I was going to be 40 that fall, that I should have a mammogram just to get a “baseline.” The letter arrived saying it was probably nothing, but that I should return for additional imaging. I took it for it’s’ word, and didn’t rush going back. When I went back a month or two later, they were like “what took you so long!” I said, “I’ve been busy.” They weren’t happy with me. Well, after the “additional imaging” they said I needed a biopsy. So, biopsy done. I never even considered that this was cancer. I mean, I was 39, I was just jumping through the hoops, just to prove everything was fine.

Well, the results came back that it was breast cancer, but fortunately the earliest stage. Stage 0. So, was this even cancer, yes was the resounding answer. Treatment plan: Lumpectomy and Radiation. I had been accepted into nursing school, so I thought, “Ok, I can still do that AND go to nursing school.”  Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. After the lumpectomy, I went in for my post-op appointment and was told that they didn’t get clear margins. This meant that there was additional cancer still left in my breast. Time was ticking for nursing school, and I was determined to not lose my one shot at being a Registered Nurse. Since another lumpectomy wasn’t a guarantee that they could get all the cancer, I opted for a mastectomy with immediate Tram flap reconstruction. Easier said than done. After surgery I felt like that my entire body had been rearranged!

Life goals can get you through some tough times. Six weeks and 2 days after this major surgery, I started nursing school.  I graduated two years later with honors.

My nursing career took me first to a Progressive care unit (step-down from intensive care) for 5 years, then to being a Case Manager for another 5 years. Oncology really didn’t occur to me as a full-time profession, although I was on the Oncology Committee, and frequently worked with the Oncology patients as their Case Manager. Then one day, the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute’s Clinical RVP showed up at our Oncology Committee and talked about Oncology Navigation.   I had never heard of Cancer Navigation before, but as she explained how they assisted cancer patients, I realized it was like being a Case Manager for breast cancer patients. Hmm, this might be something I might be interested in.

I applied for and received that job. But believe me, it is far more than a job. I realized this before I even got the job. My husband and I talked about this “job” and I truly felt that it was WHAT I was meant to do. Somehow, for the first time in my life, I realized that the reason that I had gone through what I had gone through, was to better understand. Understand some of what other breast cancer patients go through and how I might be able to help them along their way.

So you see, there’s no hero here. Just a woman who went through a road trip, one much easier, and with a better outcome than many of others that I sadly see sometimes.  It has been almost 19 years since I trekked the breast cancer road. I am blessed to work every day with patients who are at all points in their journey. Some have easier paths and some have much more difficult ones to travel. They have not only been my patients, but they have in many ways become my friends. We have learned together, laughed together, cried together, and prayed together.  Most of all we have locked hands and hearts, and we then took the BIG steps together in THEIR journey.

I encourage you when you are unsure, when you are afraid, take a step. Move forward. In times of weaknesses, take the help of those who offer it to you, and when needed, give strength and courage to those that need to borrow some from you. We can all be a hero, if only for just a few minutes.

If I am any kind of hero, it’s just an ordinary one, just like we all are. I really am just a woman who is truly blessed to be a part of so many journeys.