Shauna Sperle has participated before in cancer walks. But this is the first year she has participated as a cancer survivor.
Sperle, a service delivery coordinator at SDN Communications in Sioux Falls, has a team in the May 9 Avera Race Against Breast Cancer. I’ll talk more about the event later. First, let’s talk about Sperle’s compelling backstory and an inspiring chain of events that involves three cancer survivors at SDN.
Sperle started working at SDN in September 2013. She initially reported to Lenee Gaddis, who is now a major accounts service coordinator. One day during a meeting in June 2014, Sperle mentioned to Gaddis that she had been putting off getting a mammography. Gaddis, a breast cancer survivor, told Sperle to make an appointment immediately.
“She said I couldn’t leave that day until I had made an appointment,” says Sperle, who made an appointment.
She had the appointment in July 2014 and learned that she had stage one invasive ductal breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy in August 2014 and underwent radiation treatment. She receives follow-up treatment now but is cancer-free.
“Lenee was kind of my lean-to person. I went to her with a lot of questions,” says Sperle, who is 42, married and has three children.
She will forever be grateful to Gaddis for improving and possibly saving her life.
“I don’t know why I ended up working here, but I think that’s the reason,” she says. “God works in mysterious ways.”
Gaddis had been getting mammograms regularly before she learned that she had stage 3 breast cancer. She was diagnosed seven years ago, at 47. She has had surgery and gone through chemotherapy and radiation treatment. She’s cancer-free now and in the monitoring stage. And she continues to help others.
Sperle is keeping the chain going, too. She urged another SDN employee, Becky Keen, to get an examination.
“She pretty much told me to go make the appointment and tell when I had it done,” says Keen, a project manager.
Keen made the appointment and learned in October 2014 that she was in the early stages of breast cancer. She had surgery and radiation treatment. She hasn’t had her follow-up test yet, but assumes she is now cancer-free.
“Certainly getting in there when I did made my procedures and treatment plans so much easier,” says Keen, who was diagnosed at 53. “SDN was really great through all of this.”
The company was flexible in giving her time off for therapy as she continued to work.
Now Keen is paying the favor forward by asking other women if they have had a mammogram or should be scheduling one. So far, no one has come back and said they found anything other than peace of mind.
Gaddis, who started the chain of events, also is helping others by serving on a steering committee for the Avera Cancer Navigation Center, which is in the planning and budget-making stage. SDN is among the companies that have contributed to the cause.
The idea is to establish a center that can assist cancer patients and their loved ones in medical journeys, Gaddis says. Some navigation services are available now. The new center would expand the service and make it available 24 hours a day.
“They’re going to reach out to some of the rural areas that don’t have navigators available to them,” Gaddis says.
She says her experience with breast cancer contributed to the sense of urgency she felt when Sperle mentioned that she’d put off an exam.
“I told her to go out and call now and then come back and we’d finish our conversation,” Gaddis says. “Sometimes things happen that you think were meant to be, and that probably was one of them.”
Gaddis urges women to be proactive in scheduling mammograms and in doing self-exams.
“And if you ever have a question about something, be sure to follow up on it,” she says.
Medical technology has improved, so breast cancer is easier to detect than it was just a few years ago, she says. Which brings us back to the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer.
Digital screening mammograms will be available from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. on race day in an Avera truck. Call 605-322-7465 to schedule a digital mammogram for race day or to make an appointment at another Avera location.
Race day events on May 9 will include a 10K run, 5K run, 3 mile walk and 1.5 mile family fun walk. Races and walks will begin at 8 a.m. at the Avera McKennan Fitness Center, at 3400 S. Southeastern Ave. The race day registration cost for the fundraising event is $45.