HJ/EDHerald Journal / Enterprise Dispatch, Feb. 20, 2006

Her own battle with cancer over, HL woman walks to help others

By Liz Hellmann
Staff Writer

Judy Mattson, 56, of Howard Lake returned home from work one day to hear a message on her answering machine that would change her life.

It was the first of a series of events that would eventually lead to Mattson being diagnosed with breast cancer. That was three years ago this month.

“There was a message left by Abbott Northwestern Hospital saying I had all these appointments scheduled. I didn’t really think much of it; I thought maybe they had the wrong Judy Mattson,” Mattson said.

But when she called the hospital she found out they did not have the wrong person.

Mattson was told she needed to come in for a biopsy that Monday. Mattson had come in just a week earlier for a mammogram, something she did routinely every year, but the results were not routine this time.

Even though the results of the biopsy were ready the next day, Mattson had to wait until Friday for her doctor (whom the results were sent to) to have an opening.

Mattson walked into his office Feb. 7, 2003 a nervous woman, and walked out a cancer patient.

“He told me I had breast cancer, but in the same breath, told me that it was not life-threatening,” Mattson said.

The road ahead of Mattson was paved with many challenges, including a year and a half of treatment.

Mattson kicked it all off with a party.

Mattson’s three sons, Scott, Tony, and Adam Mattson, shaved their mother’s head March 9, 2003.

“We kind of had a little party. I didn’t want my hair to fall out, so my sons shaved it for me, and we invited the grandchildren to come over so they wouldn’t be scared when they saw grandma with no hair. They would still know it was me,” Mattson said.

Mattson then endured nine weeks of chemotherapy, followed by a double mastectomy June 19, 2003, more chemotherapy, and finally 33 treatments of radiation.

“The chemotherapy didn’t bother me that much, the nurses were so great,” Mattson said. “But the radiation was the hardest part.”

Mattson has been cancer-free for three years, but her battle against the disease is far from over.

A year after Mattson was through with treatment, she participated in the Susan G. Komen’s Mother’s Day Walk to raise money and awareness.

“It’s just so amazing to see all the people walking,” Mattson said. “You came over a hill and all you could see were white shirts (worn by survivors) for miles.”

There were 2,800 survivors present at that Mother’s Day walk.

The next year, Mattson walked again, but this year, she is determined to do even more.

She walked 3.5 miles in the Mother’s Day walk last year, but her latest challenge is to walk in the 60-mile Breast Cancer 3-day in Minneapolis, also sponsored by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, Aug. 18-20.

“My mom thinks I’m crazy, but it’s now or never,” Mattson laughed.

The event is a three-day walk, in which participants walk about 20 miles each day, and camp out at night. Each participant must raise $2,200 to walk in the event, which will be used for cancer research.

“I’m determined to do it at least one time,” Mattson said.

Between her three jobs at DuraSupreme, the American Legion, both in Howard Lake, and the Squire Inn in Montrose, Mattson has been busy putting together a fundraiser to help raise the money she will need to walk.

The fundraiser will take place at the American Legion Saturday, March 4, and will include a silent auction, deejay, and karaoke.

Mattson is hoping she can raise enough money so that her and her friend, Tonya Stierlen, can both walk.

Tonya works at the Howard Lake American Legion and Phenomenal Rehab in Howard Lake, where she has been helping Mattson train for the walk.

“It’s important to get into shape, it’s not just something you are going to get up and do,” Mattson said.

When it gets warmer out, Mattson and Tonya will begin walking around the lake, and eventually making trips to nearby cities.

“One day, we might walk to Cokato; another day, we might walk to Delano,” Mattson said.

Whether she is training or fundraising, Mattson has met an outpouring of support from the Howard Lake American Legion and the Howard Lake Lions Club, to the deejay at her fundraiser.

“He said he would donate what he got paid, and if we raised enough, would like to walk with us. He lost his sister to breast cancer,” Mattson said.

Mattson is thankful to everyone who has helped her through this, and has a few words of advice.

“My advice to all women is to have a mammogram regularly, and, like Tim McGraw says, ‘live like you were dying.’”

How to help Mattson

If you would like to help Judy Mattson fight the disease that changed her life, and affects millions of other women, come to the fundraiser.

Where: Howard Lake American Legion

When: Saturday, March 4 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

What: Silent auction starts at 4 p.m., deejay and karaoke at 8 p.m.

Donations for the silent auction are welcome, other donations can be made at: www.the3day.org/twincities06/tonyadawn

or mail to: Tonya Stierlen/Judy Mattson, PO Box 642, Howard Lake, MN 55349

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