Chris Hanson, 45, of Napoleon is fighting breast cancer like a girl-strong and courageous. She’s not alone, though. Backed by the support of family, friends, and an amazing bunch of coworkers from Alex Products in Ridgeville Corners, she is battling with courage and determination.
On August 5th of this year, Chris received the news she had been dreading: her mammogram had detected something abnormal. A biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of breast cancer. The second week of August, she learned she has stage 3 invasive breast cancer.
With no family history of breast cancer, Chris began reading to learn everything she could. The treatment plan she would be undergoing included chemo treatments every other Monday followed by a shot on the day after to help boost her white blood cell count. If everything stays on track, February 6th will be her last chemo treatment with surgery to follow.
The hardest part was to break the news to her sons Gavin, 11, and Laken, 7. The kids saw their grandfather die four years ago of cancer so Chris was sensitive to their perception of the “c” word. “I needed them to know that mom was going to fight. I showed them pictures of other women who were survivors of breast cancer.”
Although it was hard to talk with the kids, she has kept positive. Her close friend Cindy Brinkman along with her sister and mom have provided the support from day one. To help keep her kids involved in her journey, Chris allowed her sons and Cindy’s daughter to shave her head in anticipation of the effects of chemo treatments.
“I have breast cancer, but it affects the entire family,” Chris shares. The children have expressed their support and love in the small ways like painting items pink for her and with the help of their grandmother and aunt, a white Christmas tree with pink ornaments to celebrate Christmas. Chris works hard to keep life as normal as possible. “The kids still get up and go to school.” With a smile, she beams, “They are on the honor roll.”
Chris, a first shift coordinator who recently celebrated twenty years of employment at Alex Products, has experienced an overwhelming outpouring of love and support from her work family. “Everyone was shocked when I told them the news. They have been very supportive in letting me have the time off I need.”
The phone calls and text messages have been a wonderful source of support, and her coworkers have rallied around Chris in other ways to show their support. The factory has had internal events of a walking taco sale and a baked goods sale which have raised over $1400. Cindy, who also works at Alex Products, organized a pink shirt day in support of Chris. Money was also raised during a food pantry drive. Random photo texts from work keep her smiling and brighten her day. The group of individuals are caring and giving. They even have a slogan in her honor…”Fight like a girl!”
The company of several hundred employees is growing but remains closely connected. “It’s close knit, like everyone there is family,” Chris expresses. “It’s a great place to work.”
Support continues to pour in. Her sister Sandy Davis recently organized a successful fundraiser with gift baskets, a 50/50 drawing, and a silent auction to help offset the expenses of Chris’s treatments.
Chris offers the following words of advice to anyone walking a similar journey, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Reach out to a support group. And definitely lean on your family.”
She also stresses the importance of early detection. She noticed something abnormal almost a year ago, but waited to have it checked out-fear overshadowing everything. She stresses, “Don’t hold off. Early detection is best.”
Chris who just completed her fourth round of ten treatments of chemo admits, “The chemo treatments are rough.” Cindy, her mother, and sister help carry her through the difficult days when she is tired and not feeling well. They help with transportation and caring for her kids and household responsibilities.
Despite the challenging moments and days when staying in bed would be easier, Chris perseveres day in and day out. “I get up every day and tell myself I have to fight. I don’t give up. I have days when I feel like laying around, but I fight one day at a time.” She offers a weak, tired smile, “It’s showing signs of shrinkage.”
A video of photos of her journey created by Cindy’s daughter captures the emotion as the popular song Fight Song by Rachel Platten plays in the background. On the tough days, she is tired and tears easily escape Chris’s eyes, but she knows she is never alone. With the support of family, friends, and an amazing bunch of coworkers, she wakes up each morning and fights bravely and courageously like a girl. Keep fighting Chris…you are an inspiration to everyone’s life you touch.
Tammy Allison may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org