BY JEN KENT | PHOTO COURTESY OF Z2 MARKETING
|Angela Murray (left) and Amy Siewert posed together for the 2015 Race for the Cure campaign.|
There are people who let a disease like breast cancer define them, and then there is Angela Murray.
I first met Murray two years ago, on set for a photo shoot at z2 Marketing in Pewaukee. A recent breast cancer survivor, she was being honored by Susan G. Komen Southeast Wisconsin as part of the nonprofit’s 2015 Race for the Cure campaign. (The organization has since merged with the South Central Wisconsin and North Central Wisconsin chapters to become one statewide affiliate, Susan G. Komen Wisconsin.) Murray was kind, energetic, and eager to share how the funds she received from Komen helped her battle stage 3 breast cancer.
“I was offered $1,000 (from Komen) for co-pay help, which was awesome,” recalls Murray, who turned 50 this year. “You meet your deductibles (and) your out-of-pockets immediately — basically as soon as you start any type of treatment.
“So that’s how I came to meet Nikki (Panico, Susan G. Komen Wisconsin’s executive director), and then I got excited about Susan G. Komen, and I’m like, ‘Gosh, they do all of this for people?’” she continues. “At the time, I felt like I really wasn’t in a dire position where I needed this assistance, because I figured other people needed it more than I did. So, with that being said, I started to collect money for Susan G. Komen. … I totally appreciated the help, but I needed to give it back.”
Months later, Murray became a Top 50 fundraiser for the 2015 Race for the Cure. “I felt good, because (then) I helped somebody who helped me,” she says.
Today, however, Murray is fighting a new battle. After experiencing severe back and leg pain earlier this year, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in April. The cancer, she says, had spread to her liver, bones, lymph nodes, and the spinal fluid surrounding her brain. “I said to my doctor, ‘Am I lit up like a Christmas tree?’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, kind of,’” Murray recalls with a laugh. “So almost two and half years into (remission), everything was looking good, and then bam.”
Murray’s ability to discover the humor in any situation, good or bad, is perhaps one of her most endearing qualities — that, and her wonderfully positive attitude. “You can’t be bitter,” she says. “You can be, (but) it doesn’t help. And I know people kind of react the way that you react. I feel like whatever I put out, I get back. I don’t do negativity; I just don’t. ... I think it helps my rapport with my doctors, my nurses, my social workers (and) my family, because you need that trust factor. You can’t be negative and expect trust. I need my family and my doctors to know, ‘I really want to help you help me; I don’t want to keep secrets from you.’ I’m not used to feeling sick, so I can’t pretend to be this person balled up in this corner, under a blanket. It’s just not me.
“You really have to dismiss a lot if you want to feel better and do better,” Murray continues. “I think people think that because you have cancer you should look a certain way (or) you should act a certain way. … It is different (now). It’s not the old cancer. But I think people have a stereotype of what cancer should look like, what cancer should feel like, how you should behave. But why would I do that?”
Murray is currently receiving treatment twice weekly. On Mondays, a high-potency chemotherapy is injected into a port in her forehead to treat the cancer in her spinal fluid, and on Thursdays, chemotherapy or radiation is administered to treat the cancer within her body cavity. She is fiercely proactive with her care, and is quick to credit her oncology team, specifically Drs. John S. Maul and Asadullah Khan of Aurora Health Care, for their guidance, thoroughness and support.
“Sometimes, when I go to my appointments, the nurses and the assistants are talking to me, and they’re like, ‘You are so happy every time you come in!’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, what else can you do?’ If I don’t feel well, I’ll tell you I don’t feel well. Or if I tell you something is different, it’s truly because something is different,” Murray says. “You just have to pay attention. … I don’t want to come here (to the clinic) more than I have to. I don’t want to be confined to a hospital bed if I don’t have to, so tell me what I need to do.”
Now Murray is again receiving monetary assistance from Komen to help fund her care. (Her position at her workplace was recently eliminated, and Murray is currently searching for a new insurance provider.) Her relationship with the organization, and with Panico, also led Murray to develop a friendship with Amy Siewert, M’s longtime editor who lost her courageous battle with metastatic breast cancer in March of last year. The pair met at the same photo shoot at which I was introduced to Murray.
“When I met Amy, we just clicked,” Murray remembers. “At one point, we were just sitting there holding hands and talking. And as she was telling me that this was her third fight with cancer, I’m looking at her like, I would have never guessed that. So we were sitting there talking, and it threw me because she goes, ‘You’re such an inspiration.’ I’m like, ‘Me? This is your third time going through this, and you look amazing.’ She still had that fire in her. So just to sit with her, talk with her, laugh with her — it was like we knew each other.
“I would want someone like her to talk to me about cancer,” she continues, “because she was a realist. She fought. She just didn’t give into (the disease). And that (inspiration) was from me just meeting her for that short amount of time, so you can imagine what it’s like for people who have known her much longer.”
With Komen’s support and with strong individuals like Siewert as her motivation, Murray plans to attend and participate in this year’s Race for the Cure. She intends to continue to fight the disease with a positive attitude, stay in tune with her body, and advocate for her own health and wellness. “You do have to push yourself,” Murray adds, “but you will feel different. It’s just getting there.” M
Fundraise for the Cure
Race for the Cure
Race For the Cure will be held Sunday, Sept. 24, at the Milwaukee Lakefront, in front of the Calatrava.
Ways to Register
Online registration is the most efficient way to register: komenwisconsin.org.
Pettit National Ice Center
Registration and preregistered packet pickup:
• Friday, Sept. 15, 4-7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
• Sunday, Sept. 17, 12-2 p.m.
• Friday, Sept. 22, 4-7:30 p.m.
• Saturday, Sept. 23, 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Mail-in registration forms must be postmarked by Friday, Sept. 1, and mailed to:
Susan G. Komen Southeast Wisconsin Race for the Cure
c/o Hermes Sports & Events
2425 W. 11th St., Suite #2
Cleveland, OH 44113
Race day registration will be open from 7 to 9 a.m. adjacent to the Milwaukee Art Museum south fountain on Lincoln Memorial Drive, across the street from the O’Donnell parking garage. Look for the Gruber Law Offices pink flags.
Race Day Details: Sunday, Sept. 24
7-9 a.m. — Registration
7-8:30 a.m. — Survivor breakfast
7 a.m.-1 p.m. — Team tailgate area open
7:30-8:30 a.m. — Sponsor alley open
8-11 a.m. — Kids for the Cure on Harbor Drive near Discovery World
8:45 a.m. — Survivor and Forever Fighter pre-race ceremony on Milwaukee Art Museum bridge
9 a.m. — Announce team winners
9:15 a.m. — 5K Komen Race and Komen Mile (1.4 miles)*; sponsor alley reopens
10:30 a.m. — Kids Dash on lawn adjacent to Discovery World
*Those participating in the Komen Mile (1.4 miles) will be asked to line up on the right side and to the rear of the start line on Lincoln Memorial Drive.
For more information about the race and details on forming your own team, go to komenwisconsin.org, call (414) 389-4882, or email Development and Events Manager Robin Luther at email@example.com.