Breast cancer survivor finds help, support in Watertown

WATERTOWN (AP) – When Holly Rehder and a group of her work friends decided to go together to get mammograms, she wasn't expecting anything. She hadn't noticed anything abnormal and was just along for the ride.

"I hadn't had a mammogram in a couple of years, so we went in, and mine was one that came back that there was a lump," Rehder told the Watertown Public Opinion. "I'd never felt it, and even when the doctor tried to show me where it was, I couldn't feel it."

She said she was shocked to be diagnosed with stage one breast cancer in February. After having the cancer removed in a lumpectomy, Rehder underwent six sessions of chemotherapy as a preventative measure.

Despite her surprise and fear from the diagnosis, 64-year-old Rehder said she was guided through every step of her cancer treatment by the Prairie Lakes Cancer Center staff and the Watertown Breast Cancer Support Group.

"Our cancer center is amazing. Amazing. We are very fortunate," Rehder said. "There's so many different places in town that will help you and guide you."

She said Codington County Cares Cancer Foundation provided her with wigs to wear when she lost her hair from chemo, and the Lake Area Technical Institute cosmetology department showed her how to wash and style her wigs, plus how to apply false eyelashes, all for free.

Colita Remmers, who started the Breast Cancer Support Group in 2005 with Christy Kinney, said the group tries to help those going through treatment. They give blankets to comfort those undergoing chemo, provide resources and advice, and also give financial assistance with money earned through fundraisers.

"We started as an emotional support group, but then in 2007 we realized that people really need financial help, so that's how we started doing the golf tournament (fundraiser), and that's how we get the financial help," Remmers said.

Rehder received financial assistance from the Chrisy Kinney Pay it Forward fund, which was started by the support group in memory of Kinney, who died last November. The fund is now managed by Prairie Lakes Cancer Center. Rehder said Remmers came to her one day and handed her the check out of the blue.

"Everybody's so kind," Rehder said.

One of her biggest concerns when starting treatment was losing her hair. She said she told the support group how silly she felt to be worried about something as trivial as hair, but she was assured it was a normal concern for most women.

"Wigs aren't so bad! In time my hair will come back," said Rehder. "You realize it's not that big of a deal."

The Watertown Breast Cancer Support Group meets the third Wednesday of every month from September to May. Typically meetings are held at the Watertown Regional Library, and about 15 to 20 members from all over the region attend.

"I just want people to be aware that we are here, and nobody should go through breast cancer alone," Remmers said. "Reach out for help."

Rehder plans to continue to be active in the support group to continue to help women in their times of need.

"I hope that I can help somebody now, with as many people that came to me out of the blue," she said.

Rehder starts radiation soon. She credits the "Three Fs" for getting her through cancer: her faith, family and friends.

"You think it's a terrible experience, but boy, what I've gotten out of it is just love and kindness," Rehder said. "This community just gives, gives, gives; and I've met so many people that I would've never known."


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