Two Warren County women have learned the hard way that cancer does not discriminate by age, ethnicity, occupation or experience.
Danielle Gratza, 33, of Marthasville, and Kim Wynn, 50, a Warrenton native, both became statistics.
According to the American Cancer Society, about one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer. The good news is that advancements in cancer research are helping women survive the disease.
Organizers for the Warren County Relay For Life, to be held Saturday, Aug. 27, from 3-11 p.m., at Black Hawk Middle School, intend to raise $45,000 to continue the fight to eradicate cancer.
Gratza, the office manager for Backes and Toelke, was raised on a farm in the Concord Hill area. She knew of no cancer history in her family. It was just days after she celebrated her 29th birthday when she discovered a suspicious lump under her arm.
At first her doctors searched for an infection, but after more testing, breast cancer was discovered.
Wynn was adopted as a child and is of Korean ethnicity. Her medical history is unknown. She recently completed breast cancer treatment and reconstruction.
Wynn, who owns Illusions Hair Salon, began her fight with Stage 2 cancer earlier this year.
“It was the worst day of my life,” she said. “My mind was full and scared. I kept saying that I didn’t have time for this. I want this cancer out of me ASAP.”
Gratza remembers feeling the same way when she was diagnosed.
“Why me? That was my first thought,” said Gratza. “I was newly married. Both of us had lost our dads at an early age. It didn’t seem fair.”
Because Gratza hadn’t started a family yet, she chose to delay treatment long enough to seek fertility advice. She was accepted into a trial program at Barnes-Jewish. Later she underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
“I considered myself cancer-free the minute I walked out of chemo,” said Gratza. “I will hit five years this November.”
The two women met for the first time and immediately became “sisters” because of their shared experience. They both gave much credit to their families and friends for the support they received during their battles.
Wynn credits husband Jesse and her two boys for the way they stuck by her. Gratza said her husband Dustin, her mom and sister helped her keep going during the toughest times.
Both women learned valuable lessons during treatment.
“Don’t push off going to the doctor,” said Gratza. “Keeping a positive attitude is also very important.”
Wynn said a dental appointment saved her life.
“My blood pressure was high,” she said. “They wouldn’t treat me until I had a doctor’s appointment. That’s when they found it.”
Gratza said her mom always kept a breast self-exam poster hanging in the shower when she was a teenager. She remembers checking every once in a while. Now, she encourages all women to take it seriously and check every month.
“I feel good,” said Wynn. “I feel like I want to live, see things. My priorities are different. I don’t want to work as hard. I want to take better care of myself.”
“I want to really do the things I’ve been dreaming of,” said Gratza. “I’m not waiting anymore.”
Both women have participated in Relay For Life events. Wynn’s team, “The Silver Lining & Illusions Hair Gallery” team is offering two raffles at the salon. The Girls Night Pink Vintage Suitcase raffle includes fluffy robes, wineglasses, hair products, pedicure supplies and more.
The Guys Night Out raffle includes four Cardinal tickets with a parking pass, T-shirts, and refreshments.
“Danielle’s Kickin’ It” team has participated in the Warren County and Washington relays in the years since she was diagnosed.
The Warren County Relay’s theme this year is “Get Your Game On!” Activities during the event include raffles, auctions, bubble soccer and plenty of food items for sale. Music will be by the Captain Courageous Band from 3-5 p.m.
The survivors’ ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. Noah Elliott, an 18-year-old cancer survivor, will be the guest speaker. The survivors lap will begin at 6:30 p.m.