Reporting Lisa Sigell
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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — This weekend 15,000 survivors, loved ones and supporters will be walking and running at the Susan G. Komen L.A. County Race for the Cure and we will be sharing some of their stories.
We start with a young woman, who refused to let cancer break her.
Tegan Wheeler is an incredible young woman, who faced something she never imagined, but instead of giving in, she fought back with an amazing attitude and a joyful spirit.
“I sat there in stunned silence, while the reality set in – I have breast cancer,” Tegan read from her blog. “I am 26-years old and I have cancer.”
It was the first time Tegan spoke those words out loud — the words she wrote in a blog that no one has ever heard.
It all happened so suddenly in 2011 after she had just rung in the New Year with her longtime boyfriend Jordan.
Their life had been filled with fun, adventure, but then it all turned upside down after her doctor found a lump in her breast during a routine physical.
Not long after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She remembers the day she that told Jordan – she said words did not work.
“So he came and met me at the doctor’s office and I kind of just handed him the brochure that said how to deal with cancer. [I] gave him that and he just gave me a hug and said, ‘OK, what do we do next,’” Tegan said.
Next was testing. Tegan found out she carried a gene that made her pre-disposed to getting breast cancer again.
Chances were this would not be the end. So, along with removing the cancer, she endured chemotherapy, medications, and, at such a young age, decided to have a double mastectomy with reconstruction.
“A little scared, but I don’t think that I was that scared. I kind of, I knew I would be OK,” she said.
Tegan was not going to let cancer change her; it may have changed her body, but not her spirit.
“How she handled it was actually more impressive than anything else. I wasn’t a sickness to her, it was just something that she could beat,” said Jordan Teel, Tegan’s boyfriend.
“My approach was to just have an much fun with it as I could and have a sense of humor about it,” she said.
When she missed her brother’s wedding, she put her bridesmaids dress on in the hospital and sent pictures to him.
“Can’t be in California and not be a blond,” she said, while showing off her blonde wig.
Tegan embraced losing her hair by changing her look and even making art out of it.
In the middle of her treatment she went on a game show as an Easter egg.
Then her father took it further, painting what she calls “headscapes” with themes spanning baseball to humpty dumpty to a soccer ball to Mr. Potato Head.
“We did a whole bunch of then; whatever my dad could think of. Now that I have hair again, he says, ‘You should shave it again, I have more ideas,’” Tegan said.
“It was awesome and we kinda, it was actually laughing. Any day we were doing it, it was a whole day of laughing,” Jordan said.
And if laughter is the best medicine, Tegan confirmed “I did get lots of prescriptions.”
Then little Baxter was just what the doctor ordered.
“You can see it says puppy on there,” Tegan said, pointing to a prescription sheet. “My oncologist actually told me that getting a puppy would probably help with the stress and make me feel better and I think that has definitely worked. You can’t be in a bad mood when you come home to this face,” she said.
The little things mean so much now, the days together, the back to normal, and the love.
Tegan is a breast cancer survivor. It’s not what she expected at 27, but then life does not always bring you what you expect.
Tegan is very thankful for her doctors, who took such good care of her. She will be walking in the race this Saturday. It will be her first Race for the Cure.
She hopes her story will encourage others to do self-exams and talk about their family history. As she found out, breast cancer can strike at any age.
This year’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure will take place Saturday, March 24 at Dodger Stadium.