Fort Thompson, SD
Riders on the 2012 Bike America Team met with Leanne Eagleman in Fort Thompson, South Dakota. Leanne received mammograms yearly for preventative measures, but in April 2004, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After having a mastectomy, she has been cancer free for over eight years. She attributes her successful journey of beating cancer to the great care of her physicians and family. She works at a local health service clinic and supports cancer patients throughout their treatments.
There’s a lot of things I think that the American Cancer Society is doing, and providing to people all over the nation, you know. And myself, going to Washington D.C., during the celebration on the hill, that event was to get our legislators in Washington DC to support all American Cancer Society’s efforts. We got their signatures, and I was happy about that. That was a goal that we met, getting their signatures, and their promise to help. I will do anything I can. Relay for Life… I hadn’t been involved for the past 3 years, and I told my friends I want to get back involved, I want to do things again. Every time we talk about it, it’s going to help us heal. My son always says, “Mom, the tears are healing too.” And he’s a comedian, so he always says you can heal through laughter too.
After my surgery, I was talking to the mental health worker and I cried. My thoughts of what was going to happen, if people were going to look at me differently, how I thought about myself going out in public, people knowing that I lost a breast, just some weird thoughts of how people were going to see me again, knowing that I don’t have a breast. After a few years, I felt comfortable. I was enjoying the things I was doing. At first I was self-conscious, but I’m alright now.
In the state of South Dakota, I qualify for health insurance. The health insurance I had, the American Family Heritage cancer insurance, paid for everything, but all that payment went back to the state. I thought as long it’s paid for, I don’t care! I was really fortunate to have that, because a lot of people on this reservation or all over the United States get cancer, and where are they going to get the money to pay for it? That bothered me a lot, because I went through that. Our tribal chairman from the reservation I’m from, had a cancer fund for people. It was $500 that they got from my tribe, and I gave it to my mom who came from Wisconsin, my sister who came from Standing Rock, and some to John, to help all of them with gas money just to get back and forth.
My strengths are within working with people and letting them know that they’re not alone. Our governor, Bill Janklow, died this past year. But I remember, when I found out he had cancer, I called his office down in Sioux Falls, and I wanted to be there. I wanted to be part of when he died. I sent them a card while he was alive, and I kept them in my prayers. I didn’t get to make it to his funeral, but I always had a lot of compassion for their family because of the cancer and knowing what it can do to families.
Betty Schatz Kankakee, IL