Each year, Johnstown Magazine highlights some of the brave individuals who faced a breast cancer diagnosis and plowed their way through.
Cheryl Gindlesperger was diagnosed with breast cancer following an annual mammogram. She remembers the date. It was Oct. 2, 2018, and she was 47 years old.
“I had no lumps, no puckering, no pain, no symptoms whatsoever,” the Johnstown woman says.
“I was lucky that it was caught so incredibly early.”
Cheryl had a lumpectomy followed by 20 sessions of radiation and now takes an aromatase inhibitor called Anastrazole, which is the generic form of Arimidex.
Once she completed her radiation treatments, Cheryl says she assumed everything would go back to the way it was before cancer. “I struggled for quite awhile when that didn’t happen. I’m so blessed to have had a fantastic support system, but as wonderful as they were and still are, they couldn’t – and can’t – fully understand.
“People are good-hearted and mean well when they say, ‘At least you’re still alive.’
“Of course we’re so grateful for that, but cancer changes every aspect of your life in ways you don’t even think about until it happens to you.
“The constant fear of recurrence is only a small part of it. ‘Scanxiety’ is real – even just for simple blood work – as is survivor’s guilt, which I admit to still learning how to manage.”
Although each patient reacts differently, Cheryl says the side effects from the medication she must take for 10 years leave her feeling “90 years old.”
She also notes that medications often impact intimate relationships, but that the side effects are not really explained. “Fortunately, the medical community seems to be catching on that aromatase inhibitors can have a significant effect on our quality of life.
“I dearly wish I had been informed beforehand, so I could have been physically and emotionally prepared.”
Still, Cheryl says she thoroughly enjoys her life and says cancer made her appreciate and focus on all the good things.
That mentality inspired her to do a podcast called “Anything But Routine” that includes several episodes on her cancer journey. Available on most streaming platforms, the podcast also highlights the journeys of other survivors.
Cheryl also became a voice actor and honed her writing skills, becoming an independent author under the nom de plume Cherilyn Korber.
Her first book, “Beached 101: Pilot,” is available online and at Classic Elements downtown. The second in the series will be released soon.
Cancer has brought about positive changes in her life, Cheryl says.
“There are many good days, but there are also bad days and frustrations. Sometimes it feels like people think survivors shouldn’t have days like that and shouldn’t complain. But we’re human and our lives have changed.
“Sometimes it’s just hard.”