Updated: October 23, 2020 10:23 PM
Created: October 23, 2020 09:28 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Many breast cancer survivors create journals to help cope with their diagnosis. But a survivor in New Mexico found a different way to chronicle her experience.
Beth Pendergrass is the spokesperson for Rio Rancho Public Schools. She was diagnosed with breast cancer two and a half years ago.
“That's not the word you want to hear that you have cancer,” explained Pendergrass. “So, at the beginning, it's difficult to swallow, and there's tears and there's fear and there's everything else that goes along with that diagnosis, but then at some point, you have to decide how you're going to move forward. Right? And so at that point, I decided that I was going to fight, and I was going to fight the only way I knew how to which was my way.”
In May of 2018, Pendergrass decided to document her journey.
“When you lose your hair, it gives you a lot of options, there's a lot of movies out there,” she said.
She dressed as famous characters and quoted them. She took pictures and posted them on Instagram.
“I was definitely more private before, some of the stuff I've written is stuff I would have never shared before because I am so independent and private,” explained Pendergrass.
The first picture came from The Sound of Music. Pendergrass was inspired by a friend who said she looked like Maria.
“I said that my hills are alive with high grade DCIS, which is the ductal carcinoma, the cancer I had,” explained Pendergrass. “My second one with Donald Trump, and it said make Beth's boob's great again.”
The posts kept getting more personal through multiple rounds of chemo therapy, radiation and surgery.
She shared all 83 weeks of her fight.
On week 48, Pendergrass said she has her first cancer recurrence.
"So the message was 'they're back,'” she said.
A fan of Halloween, her scary post came with that sense of humor.
“Well, it's been a Poltergeist kind of week,” the post said. “During the exam prior to my infusion on Tuesday, my oncologist felt a new mass that she wanted checked out. I went in for the ultrasound and mammogram on Wednesday, and it was confirmed. Two new masses of the site where my original tumor was removed. It's never good when the doctor begins a conversation with ‘I'm sorry’ and a hug.”
Quotes from movies or celebrities would give people a glimpse of how her week was going, including Charlie Chaplin’s song Smile.
“When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by. Right? That's the message you know when tough times come, you're going to get through it, and I think that's why I just love that message keep smiling,” said Beth.
Elton John reminded her to live for each second without hesitation.
“Recognizing what you have control over and what you don't have control over,” explained Pendergrass. “What you can change and what you can't change.”
Her posts went international, and Pendergrass was getting messages from people across the globe.
“That meant the world to me because now my messages weren't only helping me, but they were helping others,” she said.
In July, she learned her cancer was in remission.
“There's a relief but there's always the question," she said.
More tests were coming. Pendergrass got another biopsy this week.
“You really don't know how strong you are until you have to be strong,” she said.
She thanks the strong women around her for that strength.
“I wanted to show them that I could do it that,” said Beth. “I could get through it, that I could keep being brave. I wanted them to be proud of me.”
Pendergrass learned Friday that her cancer is back. She said she will keep moving forward and work with doctors on the next steps.
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