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Couple’s cancer lesson: ‘Live each day and enjoy it’

Both husband and wife battled breast cancer

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
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Bill and Mary Jane Beaulieu of Niskayuna, relax in their backyard Wednesday.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Bill and Mary Jane Beaulieu of Niskayuna, relax in their backyard Wednesday.

— Bill and Mary Jane Beaulieu of Niskayuna have shared an experience most couples never will: Both are breast cancer survivors.

Now in remission, the two will join an estimated 4,000 others whose lives have been touched by cancer in the Susan G. Komen Northeastern New York Race for the Cure on Oct. 5.

After discovering a number of lumps in her left breast in April 2006, Mary Jane Beaulieu learned that she had two different types of cancer. A single mastectomy followed in June.

Fighting cancer

WHAT: 19th Annual Susan G. Komen Northeastern New York Race for the Cure

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 5 (7:30 to 10 a.m. registration; 9 a.m. 5K run; 10 a.m. 2-mile walk; 11:30 a.m. kids’ fun run)

WHERE: Empire State Plaza, Madison Avenue, Albany

COST: $25 per person online by Friday for teams and by Oct. 2 for individuals; $30 per person at packet pickup Oct. 3 and 4; $35 on race day; $10 for children under 12

INFO: Visit www.komenneny.org or call 250-5379

“It was a long summer,” the 76-year-old recalled, detailing a number of setbacks to her health.

With support from her husband and other family members, she slowly recovered.

Her chemotherapy treatments ended in November, and by Christmas, she discovered that some fuzz was growing on her head, which had gone bald from the treatments.

Along with her hair, her strength began to return.

That January, she was able to drive herself to radiation treatments and started to play tennis again — a hobby she had put on the back burner after her diagnosis.

Everything went smoothly for a couple of years, until one day in January 2010, when her husband discovered a quarter-sized lump behind his left nipple. It turned out to be cancerous.

“It was a Sunday. Monday he was at the doctor’s office and then the next Friday he had the surgery,” Mary Jane Beaulieu recounted.

At the time, he was 80 — a very active octogenarian, his wife added. He made the choice to brave chemotherapy.

Now in remission, he is back to doing everything he enjoyed before, including attending activities at the Niskayuna Senior Center.

The shared experience with breast cancer taught the couple to be grateful for each new day.

“You have to live each day and enjoy it,” Mary Jane Beaulieu said.

Most men are unaware that they can get breast cancer, noted Lynette Stark, executive director of Komen’s Northeastern New York affiliate.

“While it is rare, men have to be aware of their breast health as well and notice changes to their breasts,” she said.

Awareness is a key component of the Race for the Cure, which will begin at 9 a.m. at Empire State Plaza.

In addition to a 5-kilometer run, a 2-mile walk and a kids’ fun run, the event will include an educational “I am the Cure” program that will offer actions people can take to improve their breast health.

This will be the second time the Beaulieus have walked in the race.

“When you go there, it’s kind of overwhelming, seeing all of the people and seeing the support,” Mary Jane Beaulieu said.

Organizers hope to raise $300,000 from the event, 75 percent of which will fund local breast health and breast cancer education, screening, treatment and outreach programs. The balance of the funds will be used to support breast cancer research at institutions including Albany Medical College and the University at Albany.

 
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