Relay for Life teams hit the track Aug. 3
Barb Beyer, of Champlin, is living proof that miracles can and do happen. In fact, in the face of a Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis that left her with the prognosis giving her 18 to 24 months to live. Her oncologist told her if they were extremely luck and all the planets aligned, they might be able to control the cancer enough to give her 5 years. That was in October 2011.
“My husband, Tim [Beyer], was devastated,” she said. “But I knew I was going to beat it. That’s the attitude I had going forward.”
The couple, who have been married for almost 23 years, chose not to share the dire prognosis with their three children, Alaina, 19; Sarah, 16 and Matt, 12 (ages at the time of diagnosis).
“Instead, we told them the diagnosis but that I was fighting it and I would beat it,” Barb said. “I told them if anything changed we’d sit down and talk about it.”
She scheduled chemotherapy the next day and went through weekly chemo, receiving a partial dose. The first treatment was given in the hospital since the doctors didn’t know how her body would react.
“That’s when the miracles started happening,” said Barb.
After the first chemotherapy session, her body shed so many dead tumor cells, the hospital oncologist could believe what was happening, according to Barb.
With each chemo session, she made progress. Her December 2011 PET Scan was a stark contrast to the one taken in October.
“With my first PET Scan, my doctor told me I lit up like a Christmas tree,” she said, noting that she had cancer cells in both breasts, tumors in her lymph nodes and chest and a spot on her liver. She even had cancer cells in her bones, something her doctor told her will always remain, that cancer cells in bones never go away; they just remain there not doing anything or spread.
Her second PET Scan showed all the tumors were gone, as well as her breast tissue, liver and lymph nodes were all clean. There was even significant decrease in the cancer cells in her bone scans.
“That never happens,” Barb said.
Through the entire ordeal, Barb said her support network was phenomenal. She says her husband picked up a lot of slack at home, with three kids and activities almost every night and events on the weekends. However, through it all, Barb never missed one of Matt’s traveling basketball games or one of Sarah’s dance team events. Although they never discussed the prognosis, since it didn’t fit in with Barb’s attitude of hope and positive thinking, at times, it took its toll on the family.
“It was the worst time in my life,” said Matt, now 13. “It was very emotional when she was sick but I had friends who could tell when I was down and would tell me I could talk to them and that helped.”
In another act of support, Sarah’s dance team wore the pink ribbon, a symbol of breast cancer awareness on their team shirts to honor Barb.
Barb says she has discovered the graciousness of so many people from the friend who organized meal deliveries for her family through the end of 2011 when she was sick to the Caring Bridge website that allowed her to communicate with friends and family and even some people she’d never met.
“That was a constant source of support for me,” she said. “I am so thankful for that site.”
In fact, encourages other cancer fighters to set up a Caring Bridge website because of the boundless support and strength she drew from it.
Another considerable element to Barb’s battle and recovery were the countless prayer warriors who provided strength in numbers for her cause. From the congregation at her church, Grace Fellowship, to numerous churches in Brooklyn Park and Champlin as well as in Alexandria, where her parents live, even across the country, people bowed their heads in prayer to help Barb fight the cancer that overtook her body.
She says she feels lucky she didn’t experience nausea or many of the other side effects of chemotherapy. But when she started to experience symptoms of neuropathy – tingling in her hands and feet, she sent out a call to her prayer warriors and the problem resolved itself soon after that.
She is convinced that hope and faith played a major role in her recovery.
“I did lose most of my hair though,” said Barb, who now sports a trim cut as it has started to grow back.
By February 2012, all of the cancer and tumor cells are gone, even from her bones. She continues a drug regimen that requires her to get an IV of Herceptin every three weeks, a drug she calls a “seek and destroy” medication that seeks out the aggressive cancerous HER 2 markers and destroys them. She also takes a daily oral medication for the Estrogen positive marker of cancer.
Now, Barb has moved into the role of being and inspiration to others as she will be the featured speak at the Relay for Life of Champlin, Friday, Aug. 3. In addition to entering a team of about 15 friends and family into the relay, Barb will address the crowd with her message of hope and faith.
“Even with the most dire of diagnosis and prognosis, miracles can and do happen,” she said. “I’m feeling better every day and I believe keeping a positive attitude weighed heavily in my recovery.”
What does Barb’s son, Matt, think about his mom’s miracle?
“It’s awesome!” He said.