Medical assistant's cancer opens a door
Now a dedicated walker, Mimi Schork chooses her menu wisely
A phone call last winter changed Mimi Schork’s life. After working as a medical assistant at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center for 12 years, with the last four years in the Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Mimi learned that she had cancer. The call confirmed a positive biopsy of a suspicious lump found during her annual mammogram. Mimi was now a patient herself, with early stage HER-2 positive breast cancer.
"My mind went blank. Then I thought of my lifestyle. I've smoked since I was 16, don't exercise and pretty much eat and drink whatever I want at any time of the day or night. Did these habits contribute to my cancer?" Mimi asked.
Mimi's course of treatment included surgery followed by chemotherapy, radiation and Herceptin therapy. It was during one of the first of her 30 radiation treatments that Mimi learned exercise helps with radiation. Mimi began a walking program after her early morning radiation, walking all over the medical campus for at least 40 minutes. Afterward, she went home and napped.
The naps have ended, but Mimi still walks daily and has made significant lifestyle changes. She gave up smoking cold turkey on the day she got her diagnosis. She's stopped eating fast food and late-night snacks, preferring instead to eat fresh, healthy, well-balanced meals.
Coping with the diagnosis
"I had lots of confidence in my care team, and Kelly Scheu, the nurse practitioner on the breast oncology team, was phenomenal. She was always sharing information and giving hugs when needed," Mimi says.
Still wondering if she had done something wrong to develop cancer, Mimi joined a support group. This has helped her accept the diagnosis, but it was Kelly who gave her a huge boost.
"I asked Kelly when I'd be cancer free. She said I was free of it when the tumor came out. That was the perfect thing to say," Mimi remembers.
From walking solo to organizing a 5K team
Mimi is embracing her lifestyle changes and doesn't miss smoking, fast foods or any of the foods and beverages she’s give up. She's even overcome a serious candy craving that began during her chemotherapy treatments.
From the beginning, Mimi has found so much support from her loving husband Matt, family, friends, and among her coworkers from the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit.
"My coworkers have been just phenomenal, as close to me as family. They have done so much to help me. I've had those crying moments with some of them, and they let me know right away that it's ok," she says.
Mimi found a way to bring the people she loves together to enjoy walking outdoors, and for a cause they all endorse -- breast cancer research.
Each year, Washtenaw Community College hosts an American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Mimi knew her family and coworkers had what it takes to form a team for this year’s Oct. 24 event. Everyone on Team Mimi wore vibrant pink sweatshirts against the chill of late autumn. With lots of laughs and good company to keep them warm, Mimi's team marched together for the 3.1 miles of the course, surpassing their goal of $1,000 by bringing in $1,783 for the American Cancer Society.
When asked, Mimi says she doesn’t miss what she's lost, in fact, what’s replaced her old ways is so much better.