Cancer survivor Wendy Freden never had any intention of ringing the bell at Texas Oncology Tyler on her last day of chemotherapy.
She brought a pair of boxing gloves and, according to her oncologist Dr. Sasha Vukelja, nearly knocked the bell off the wall.
Freden is a physician assistant at Christus Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler who was diagnosed with stage 1A multifocal invasive breast cancer in February. Less than a year earlier, her mammogram results were normal but she continued self-breast exams and detected a lump in her right breast.
Three weeks later, she had a double mastectomy and her team of cancer specialists at Texas Tyler Oncology began plans for chemo.
She said the journey through chemo was long, dark and painful.
“I described it to my mom as feeling hypersensitive to light, touch and everything,” Freden said. “All you want to do is lay there in the dark but even that is miserable.”
Freden said punching the bell had incredible meaning for her. It meant hope had started to shine brightly.
"I felt like the hard part was behind me,” she said excitedly. “That was amazing. I feel like I’ve been in bed for months and finally that part will be behind me."
The giant purple and white gloves were sent in a care package by the owner of makeup company Younique, who wanted Wendy to know she had her back.
"From the day I opened that box and saw those gloves they were so symbolic for just that fight,” Freden said. “Fight like a girl. You’re going to fight through this, you're going to get through this. From that day I said, ‘I’m not ringing that bell, I’m punching it."
To Wendy, punching the bell represented more than just her own fight.
“I did it for any woman going through this,” she said. “You can survive it, you can fight it and then you can symbolically punch it off the wall because you're done with that part."
Hundreds reached out to Freden to share their own cancer stories, to ask advice and to express how her story touched them.
“Cancer affects so many people’s lives,” she said. “I think the inspiration comes from seeing someone going through it with a positive attitude, determined to survive.”
Freden said despite all of the attention, she is just one of millions battling a terrible disease. She said many women do not realize self-breast exams can be a crucial step in prevention. Now, she has a new mission in life.
"When I found out, I gave an open invitation for friends and anyone to come and feel the lump,” she said. “I told them, ‘I want you to feel what this cancer feels like,’ because most women don't know what they're feeling for."
For now, she plans to savor some semblance of normalcy.
"I’m going to get back to life, get back to exercise, get back to socializing," she said. “I’m going to get back to living.”
Freden said mammograms do not always detect cancer especially in women who have dense breast tissue. She advises women have dense tissue to insist an ultrasound to be done in conjunction to a mammogram.
Freden’s friends and family set up a YouCaring account for her while she is unable to work.
Click here for a link to the Facebook page Wendy’s Warriors to keep up with the latest on Freden’s journey.