With Husband’s and Co-Workers’ Support, Super Survivor Refuses to Slow Down

333-13-01When Vicki Simmons learned that she had Stage 2 breast cancer last October, it confirmed what she had suspected when she first discovered the lump in her breast a week before.

“That was a long day,” she recalled when she heard the news. “I sat and cried.”

But those tears didn’t last long. “I’m going to beat it,” the 57-year-old woman said. “I’m from the old school. I can tough it out.”

And with the help of her husband, Dale, as well as the support of co-workers, she has made it through her treatments and chemotherapy. “So far, so good,” she said.

Vicki, of Mount Auburn, is one of three women who were randomly chosen as Super Survivors to be honored at this year”s Memorial”s Be Aware Women”s Fair. The fourth annual event will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Orr Building at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Super Survivors are women whose breast cancer journeys have been an inspiration to others. Their unique stories will be shared with fair-goers when the Super Survivors reveal their makeovers courtesy of BJ Grand Salon and Spa and their new outfits. Their makeovers will be revealed at 12:30 p.m. on the Entertainment Stage during the women’s fair.

Vicki’s journey began on Oct. 11, 2012, when she first felt a lump in her breast and made arrangements for a mammogram later that week. Even though there was no history of breast cancer in her family, “I knew something was not right.”

She went to Memorial Medical Center’s Outpatient Imaging Center at the Baylis Medical Building and had a mammogram, ultrasound and breast biopsy all on the same day. The following Monday, she met with Keith Wichterman, MD, at Springfield Clinic. She found she had a fast-growing lump that was already the size of a golf ball.

She had surgery and began her chemotherapy the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. She had one treatment every three weeks over 18 weeks.

During her treatments, Vicki was determined to make sure it was business as usual at work. She’s a unit clerk on 3G at Memorial Medical Center. “My co-workers were always there for me, asking if I needed help,” Vicki said, but she was focused on doing her job as normal.

Several co-workers nominated Vicki as a Super Survivor. One of them, Amanda Wade, said, “Vicki was diagnosed with breast cancer and never let it get her down. She came into work every day with a smile on her face and never complained. She did not use her condition to get out of doing her work; if anything, she did more work than ever. We are grateful to have such a wonderful woman to work with.”

But at the center of it all was Dale. “He is my rock and my inspiration,” Vicki said.

The couple were married in 1985 and will celebrate their 29th anniversary in June 2014. Dale, 68, has been a paraplegic since 1980. Due to complications from paralysis and diabetes, he became a double amputee within the last 10 years. Still, he drove Vicki back and forth to all of her chemo treatments in their specially fitted handicapped van.

“I figured that with everything he’s been through,” Vicki said, “I can get through this.”