One woman takes cancer head on

Mary Atkinson · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Surrounded by friends and family coping with different forms of cancer, Roxanne Larsen-Veigelt has decided to spend most of her free time walking.

However, she doesn't just walk in one place during October, or Breast Cancer Awareness month. Rather, she spends the entire year walking all over the country raising money and breast cancer awareness.

And if she isn't walking for cancer causes herself, she's 'crewing' for those who are walking.

'Crewing' means setting up and tearing down tents, preparing food, working the information tents and cheering on those doing the walking.

"It's amazing." She said. "Hard work, but it's amazing. It gives you a better understanding of what needs to happen in order to get all of this going."

Larsen-Veigelt, a 1982 graduate of West Liberty High School, started her life's journey with cancer awareness about 25 years ago when she found a lump in her left breast.

"There wasn't any breast cancer on my side of the family, but we had every other kind of cancer imaginable," she said, "So, I went for a check up. It [the lump] showed up on a mammogram. I was scared; I was only 26. Breast cancer doesn't happen to someone that young!"

During surgery to remove the lump doctors found 19 more. Fortunately, for Larsen-Veigelt, the lumps were not cancer. However, for the next 13 years she developed more of them.

"I found more and more," she said. "Sometimes they were so painful that they would drop me to my knees."

In the mean time, her cousin, Connie, had called her saying she too found a lump in one of her breasts.

"I told her it wasn't a big deal," Larsen-Veigelt said. "Just go in and have it removed. No big deal, right? Wrong."

Connie was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 32. She endured chemo and radiation treatments, had a bone marrow transplant, lost her hair and gained weight from all the drugs - all the while she continued to take care of her five-year-old daughter and work a job.

Unfortunately, she died.

"Connie's cancer metastasized into her brain, she received her Angel's wings at the age of 36," Larsen-Veigelt said. "Every time I walk, every time I see pink, or the breast cancer ribbon or a lady who doesn't have any hair, I think of Connie and how much I miss her."

Since then, Larsen-Veigelt said her sister-in-law, Judy, was diagnosed, as well as a couple of her friends. Both her mom and stepfather were diagnosed with cancer. Her stepfather is still coping with stage 5 prostate and bladder cancer.

"I know too many," she said, "More and more men and women are being diagnosed every day."

"Just one disease can take out more than all the people who live in West Liberty, Nichols, Atalissa and other small communities combined. That puts it in perspective," she added.

She said that according to both and the American Cancer Institute, one in eight women have the possibility of getting invasive breast cancer in her life. 

Larsen-Veigelt does more than donate her time - she also donates money. But the unique thing is how she raises the money that she donates.

In the last three years she has raised a little over $8,000 doing odd jobs or fund raising.

"I like the fact that I can help others by mowing a lawn, painting a room in a house, teaching someone how to can vegetables, scrapbook, anything," she said. "That way they get something, I get something, and it is also tax deductible. I hate asking for money so it is easier for me to just work for it."

Larsen-Veigelt now lives in Riverside with her supportive husband, Jeff, and stepson, Christopher. She said she would like people to know that a kind word or a helpful hand to a person coping with cancer can go a long way.

"Big or small - it doesn't matter. What matters is that someone cares." She said.

She believes another point to remember is early detection.

"If you find something that you may think is not right, then listen to your body," warns Larsen-Veigelt. "It knows. Get to a doctor. If you are not satisfied with the answer, get another opinion. Just don't put it off."
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