Herald JournalHerald Journal, Nov. 10, 2003

Beatrice Gagnon's invincible, upbeat spirit overcomes breast cancer

By Lynda Jensen

Attitude is everything ­ and for Beatrice Gagnon of Waverly, it helped her beat cancer.

The 75-year-old grandmother of 18 recently was diagnosed with cancer this spring, during a regular mammogram checkup at the Waconia Ridgeview clinic.

However, the devastating diagnosis likely blessed more people than not, since Gagnon spent her radiation time exhorting other cancer victims around her with an unstoppable upbeat attitude ­ and she successfully beat the disease herself.

"I never got down," she commented. "I don't get depressed."

She remembers talking with other cancer victims at the cancer center in Waconia whom she considered worse off than herself; those diagnosed with breast cancer on both sides, or diagnosed with brain tumors.

She exhorted everyone around her to persevere and have faith.

Gagnon also noted the nurses and staff at Waconia were exceptionally caring and even loving, she said. "I was very impressed with the staff," she said.

Gagnon also counted herself lucky to be diagnosed on only one side with a tumor the size of a centimeter, which was self contained, and hadn't reached her lymph nodes yet.

"The people in radiation were so positive and wonderful," she said.

Armed with a good doctor and a great attitude, she did surprisingly well with her treatments and recovered faster than expected.

"They were surprised I did so well," she said.

In fact, her skin didn't burn, which is associated with radiation.

Now, after her journey to recovery, she can look back and reflect.

"Your priorities come to the top," she said. "You know what to leave and what to care about."

Gagnon has been on a regular mammogram regiment since she turned 50. She does not have a family history of breast cancer.

"It took an ultrasound to find it," she said of the cancerous lump.

Of course, prevention is the key, Gagnon says.

"Prevention is the answer to all of it," she said.

She instructed all six of her daughters to get regular mammograms.

"I told my girls "Go. Get your first mammogram,'" she said.

A regular set of mammograms is essential for doctors to correctly diagnose cancer, since they need a first mammogram to compare to, Gagnon said.

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