Warrior Women: Ann's Story
Make Yourself a Priority, Ladies!
In the summer of 2016, Ann Will of Sandusky found a lump in her breast. But the busy 41-year-old mom of two dismissed it as a cyst. She had even received her mammogram reminder card from Firelands Center for Breast Care, but she didn’t have time to deal with a pesky cyst – she and her family had a lot going on that summer. And in true mom fashion, she pushed it to the back burner to take care of her family.
But then one day six months later she noticed the lump was protruding out of her skin.
Alarmed, she contacted her OBGYN, Dr. Richard Visci, who ordered a mammogram at Firelands Center for Breast Care.
“The day of the mammogram, I had an inkling (something was wrong),” said Ann, even though she had no family history of breast cancer.
The mammogram did, in fact, show something. She scheduled a biopsy with General Surgeon Dr. Frederic Itzkowitz and in January 2017 she sat across from Dr. Itzkowitz as he delivered the words no woman wants to hear: You have breast cancer.
“It was complete horror,” Ann said of her Stage 2 diagnosis. “I fell apart. I tried to stay positive, but I went through all the emotions. My husband, Ed, was with me – he held my hand and we both cried. We left the doctor’s office and I told him to just drive. I wasn’t ready to go home.”
When Ann and Ed arrived home, they had to deliver the tough news to their two girls – Emma and Taylor, who were 11 and 4, respectively at the time.
“We talked to the kids…and all you can do is try to make them feel better,” she said. “You have to encourage them to be strong. I’m really proud of them. Throughout all of this they never once looked at me differently.”
The day after her diagnosis, Ann woke up, realizing this was not a nightmare, but her new reality.
“I just sat there and cried,” she said. “Then I thought, ‘This is it. No more crying. You’re strong. You’re going to put on the gloves and you are going to fight’.”
Refusing to let breast cancer tear her down, Ann surrounded herself with family and friends.
“I fight for them,” she said, adding that her brother, Dru Meredith, would send her a motivational quote every morning to help her get through the day.
Ann began her eight rounds of chemotherapy in February 2016 and in June of that same year she had a double mastectomy. In August, she started her 30 treatments of radiation.
“To think back you go, ‘did I really just go through all of this?’,” she reflects. “You don’t know how strong you really are. But you find that inner beast. And I prayed every day – I started my day with a prayer and a smile.”
Ann said if she could offer one piece of advice to women out there, it would be to get their mammograms.
“Take care of yourself,” she said. “Get those mammograms. Make it a priority; it’s worth it. Early detection is key.”