HURLEY — October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and for Susan Wolfe, of Hurley, it’s the anniversary of a long-fought battle.
Oct. 1 marked the one-year anniversary of Wolfe being cancer-free from breast cancer.
While the anniversary is bittersweet, Wolfe said it marks a journey for both her and her family.
“A lot of people will say, ‘I’m so sorry you had cancer,’ but I don’t want them to feel sorry for me,” Wolfe said. “That experience was an incredible journey for my family and I because of the people we met and the places we went along the way.”
Through a nonprofit organization called Angel on My Shoulder in St. Germain, Wis., programs for those battling cancer, those who have survived cancer and for their children are offered.
Wolfe attended a survivors’ retreat in Wisconsin Dells last November. The event was a “life-changing weekend,” and something she’ll never forget.
“To be with so many other survivors, who have the same questions and fears,” Wolfe said, “there were some who felt guilt for surviving when others didn’t. It showed me that I wasn’t alone in all this, and not to be afraid of my limitations.”
After the event, Wolfe made a choice.
“Being a recent survivor, you only have so much to give to others,” Wolfe said. “And the more you keep going forward, the further you are away from it. You always remember, but you grow stronger each day. I made a choice to live and that is what I have done.”
Wolfe is a manager at the Days Inn in Hurley, something she is very proud of.
“If you would have told me a year ago that I would be running a motel with 70 rooms and more than 20 employees, I would have said you were crazy,” Wolfe said.
Her job has helped her find a new lease on life, as well, even in places she leasts expect it.
“In September, I attended an event in which the Wyndham Hotel Group brought all 15 brands together for the first time,” Wolfe said. “It was a privilege to attend the event, and I found out that Days Inn was using a new slogan, ‘Live Life Up.’ I thought how fitting that was, and that is how I am living my life.
“I have two feet on the ground and I am standing up.”
Her three children, Michael, Molly and Ian, have been her support system through everything, including helping her celebrate her anniversary.
“Molly threw me a surprise party, and that was amazing,” Wolfe said. “To have a lot of the people who had been with me through this journey was amazing. I loved it.”
When Wolfe was diagnosed, she feared for her children, especially her youngest, Ian, who was 11.
“I was a single mom, not knowing if I was going to live or die,” Wolfe said. “I was afraid to go to sleep at night, for fear that he would find me dead in the morning. Ian grew up quickly during that.”
However, despite the fear, Wolfe said the relationship with her youngest son is wonderful.
“It brought us closer together,” Wolfe said. “I hate to say that I benefitted from it, but I did.”
To help Ian cope with what was going on, Wolfe said he attended camps through Angel on My Shoulder, as a kid and teen. According to Wolfe, it helped him see he wasn’t alone.
“He was able to meet other kids who were going through or had gone through the same thing,” Wolfe said. “It helped see that he wasn’t the only one. I believe this whole thing taught him how to care about other people more than himself and I’m proud of him.”
Wolfe’s daughter was also with her during her treatments and gave her a gift to show she supported her mother.
“She gave me a necklace with two hearts, and told me, ‘I may not always be able to be with you, but this necklace shows that my heart is always with you,’” Wolfe said. “I absolutely love it.”
Wolfe has shared her story in a variety of ways, including being the survivor speaker at Relay for Life earlier this year.
“I was so honored, and I didn’t realize the emotional impact it was going to have on me,” Wolfe said. “When I was doing the survivors’ lap and saw all the luminaries for those who didn’t make it, it made me so thankful to be alive and see how many lives cancer affects.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what age you are, cancer doesn’t discriminate.”
Wolfe will speak at the Women’s Health Night on Oct. 21 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Maplewood Steak House in Ironwood.
“I am really excited to speak there,” Wolfe said. “Women’s health is such an important issue.”
Currently, women are recommended to get mammograms at 40, and Wolfe’s advice is “do whatever you can” to stay healthy.
“If you have any suspicions, call your doctor,” Wolfe said. “Do self exams, as well. My mammogram and ultrasound did not show cancer. I was working full- time, was a single mom and didn’t want to take the time off from work to get it checked. I couldn’t afford to take time off, but six months later, when I did go in, I was stage three.
“You need to realize what is more important, your life or medical bills.”
Despite it all, Wolfe has a smile on her face and is living life to the fullest.
“I have had two reconstruction surgeries since last October, and my last surgery is on Oct. 25,” Wolfe said. “I actually found a shirt that I want to wear that says, ‘Yes, they are fake. My real ones tried to kill me.’ You have to have a sense of humor.”