Teresa Majerus putting positive spin on cancer diagnosis

Katie d’Autremont, right, drives Teresa Majerus to a radiation appointment in Great Falls recently. Katie is one of 13 friends of family members who have taken Teresa to her appointment, and there are more signed up.

Photo courtesy of Teresa Majerus

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

Eighteen down, 15 to go.

That’s the count now for Teresa Majerus, who was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer in February.

Eighteen radiation treatments down, 15 more to go.

This may sound tragic, but, for Teresa, it’s a way to appreciate what she has, especially her family and friends.

“You can take this and make this a blessing,” she said.

And that’s exactly what she’s doing…one ride at a time.

With all these trips to Great Falls for treatment, Teresa wanted to do something fun: why not have friends and family give her rides and make an experience out of it.

The idea first came to Teresa after another friend and fellow counselor had friends give her rides to and from Great Falls when she was diagnosed.

To kick-start this campaign, friend and fellow counselor Katie d’Autremont put together a Google calendar where people could sign up to drive Teresa. It didn’t take long for the calendar to start filling up.

“This week it will be 13 different people and 19 trips,” Teresa said. “Karen Durbin has driven me three times, my sister-in-law has driven twice, but usually it’s a new person every time.”

Friends have come from all over the state and all different parts of Teresa’s life. Many of the drivers are colleagues, but, now, more family is getting involved.

An Indiana native, Teresa has family from the Hoosier state coming in to help her get to and from radiation treatment.

“My brothers and sisters-in-law are coming,” she said. “By the time it’s all done, I should have had 18 people drive me for a total of 33 trips.”

To express her gratitude to her friends and to stay positive, Teresa posts selfies and stories on Facebook during each ride. The stories honor the driver, give some fun facts and are almost always humorous.

The inspiration to share these posts came to Teresa naturally.

“When I was vice president of middle schools for the Montana School Counselors Administration, I had to write articles every quarter for the newsletter, and I did counselor spotlights. That was really cool because there were a whole lot of really interesting school counselors. So, when I started getting rides, I thought this was a good way to share with my family back in Indiana how I was doing and show them how giving of a community we have in Lewistown.”

“There are also all these cool people in Lewistown nobody knows about,” Teresa added.

Having drivers sign up to take her to Great Falls has significantly helped Teresa keep her spirits up. The support, she said, is phenomenal, especially from those who have battled cancer themselves.

“I can count eight different people who went through the same thing I am going through just off the top of my head,” Teresa said. “There are others who have gone through cancer treatments that were even harder than what I have to go through. I am so thankful I don’t have to do chemotherapy.”

Although draining and at times painful, Teresa considers her treatments relatively “easy.”

“I get up at 5:30, I meet whoever is driving at 6:30 and we get to Great Falls by 8 a.m.,” she said. “Radiation takes about 15 minutes maximum, and that includes check-in and walk-out. I am just blessed that they caught this super early.”

But doing radiation treatment is only easy when comparing her cancer to a more advanced one. It still takes quite a toll.

“I am over halfway through the treatments, and I have to take naps, I go to bed early and I am drinking a lot of water,” she said. “I call it the microwave effect: cooking from the inside out (laughs).”

From the moment of the diagnosis to her last ride with Karen Durbin, Teresa has kept her sense of humor going.

When diagnosed in February, her initial response was, “I don’t have time for this.”

She also regularly calls herself radioactive or something to that effect.

“I’ve actually been having fun,” she said, “especially with the posts. Just today, for example, I was able to share that Karen has been Teacher of the Year for three different organizations. Earlier I shared that my sister-in-law Linda taught school for like 35 years and Anita Smith hunts mountain lions. There are a lot of cool things about these people and I’m glad I get to tell their stories.”

It’s this attitude that inspires people, such as d’Autremont, who cannot thank Teresa enough for the impact she’s made on her life.

“Teresa is a true gem,” d’Autremont said. “I feel so lucky to have been able to grow closer in my friendship with Teresa throughout this process,. Even as she is going through something that has the potential to be so scary and anxiety provoking, Teresa maintains her faith and her positivity. I admire her ability to be able to cope and see a greater picture as she endures this journey with her treatments. I think the number of people who have eagerly wanted to drive Teresa to her treatments speaks volumes and is a true testament to the impact she's had personally and professionally on our community.” 

Friends and family have offered much support and kept Teresa going. Her children have also been supportive and considerate. During the track season, her son, Noah, wore pink socks to honor her. A few of his teammates did the same.

“It was very touching,” Teresa said.

Through the entire experience, Teresa said she hasn’t lost sight of her faith, and that’s what’s really carried her on this journey.

“I am at peace and I feel pretty strong,” she said. “By the end of the week, I am a little zapped, but I feel good, and I feel loved. Keep praying. I can feel your prayers, and I can feel your support.”

 

 

 

 

 

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