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Peggy Tschauner and Ellen Jacobs of Shelby County, two of the 139 cancer survivors who will be participating in the Kentucky Oaks Survivors Parade May 3, are doubly excited about participating.
That’s because the pair was chosen to walk in the parade last year, through an online selection process, the usual procedure, but a storm ruined the parade, so they were invited back again this year.
“We got a letter last year, the Monday after the Derby, they sent out a letter last year to all of us,” Tschauner said.
She said when the storm hit last year just before the parade, the survivors were herded onto buses.
“We were all waiting to be whisked out to Oz, and I just laughed, and said, ‘You don’t take a bunch of women who have beaten cancer and tell us to sit down and be quiet!’ Talk about mutiny on mini-buses! So I left before the running of the Oaks, and a lot of other people [who were supposed to walk] did, too.”
Jacobs said she was glad to hear that all the survivors were invited back again this year.
“They said everybody who was there could do it again, regardless of whether you got to walk or not because it was nowhere the experience it should have been,” she said.
The Longines Kentucky Oaks is considered by some to be among the most popular horse races in American horse-racing society due to its high attendance, attracting about 100,000 people in attendance a year.
This year, and Jacobs hope to be marching close to each other, as the pair have been fast friends ever since bonding two years ago as cancer survivors, said Tschauner, a personal trainer and former co-owner of Shelby Fit for Life.
Both women are doing well this year, although they have both had some health problems related to their cancer.
Jacobs was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, after a tumor was discovered during a routine mammography. Although she did not have a mastectomy, she underwent chemotherapy first to shrink the tumor before having it removed.
This year finds her having some difficulty because of those treatments she said, adding that she experienced some complications from the chemo and ended up with permanent neuropathy. She is also is facing surgery to remove a non-cancerous cyst from her spine that will leave her in a back brace for several months.
But the good news is, she is happy because she just had her mammogram done last month and it was all clear.
“Everything was fine, so that was awesome news,” she said. “I’m considered cancer-free.”
Tschauner, a 3-year survivor of ovarian cancer, calls the disease "the silent cancer."
"I had had all my screenings because cancer runs in my family on my dad's side," she said.
But even despite a clean colonoscopy, she still continued to have abdominal pain and bloating, and eventually experienced a sharp, stabbing pain knew immediately that something wasn't right.
She went to her doctor, who performed a C-A125, the test for ovarian cancer, which came back positive.
She was diagnosed with stage three cancer that had spread.
During last year’s ill-fated Oaks Parade, she had been cancer free for two years, but then at the beginning of this year, she had a small relapse, though she is bouncing back from that.
“Last year I was in remission,” she said. “Now I am back in treatment again. This is my fifth time through chemo. Things got a little out of control in January, but things are looking good now, my numbers are coming along very well and I’m feeling good, and I’m excited about that.”
Tschauner and Jacobs are both also excited about making a fashion statement Friday night, they say.
“This year I’ll be going for a cooler outfit, that’s for sure,” Tschauner said. “But the fun part is, they have recommended that we wear rubber rain boots, so my boots are bright green with pink polka dots. I will set that off with a pink and white outfit.”
Jacobs said she is still mulling over what to wear out of several smashing options she has planned.
“I have still not decided what to wear. It depends on the weather; they have changed it three times,” she said, laughing. “I have several different outfits to choose from, but I’ll definitely be wearing pink, that’s for sure.”