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Fighting the breast cancer battle

Woodbury resident Stephanie Jakupbik, a breast cancer survivor, will be participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Aug. 23-25 with her team the "Pink Divas." Submitted photo.1 / 4
Woodbury resident Stephanie Jakupbik, a breast cancer survivor, will be participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure Aug. 23-25 with her team the "Pink Divas." Submitted photo.2 / 4
Woodbury resident Aimee Neumann, a cancer survivor, will be participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. 3 / 4
Woodbury resident Aimee Neumann, a cancer survivor, will be participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure. 4 / 4

Woodbury resident Stephanie Jakubik's life was rocked in August 2008 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It was shocking because we didn't have breast cancer in my family," she said. "I was with her every step of the way as she went through treatment."

Jakubik's mother fought hard and beat the cancer, but two years later Jakubik received some news that she wasn't prepared for - she, too, had breast cancer.

"After my mom was diagnosed I started doing mammograms," she said, "and after the second mammogram they found something suspicious."

Jakubik, now cancer-free, will continue the breast cancer fight this weekend as she participates in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure.

Woodbury resident and fellow breast cancer survivor Aimee Neumann will also be participating in the event.

The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure, Aug. 22-24, is a 60-mile walk that will begin at Southdale Mall in Edina after which walkers will traverse through the Twin Cities area before concluding at the Minnesota state Capitol grounds on Sunday.

"It's a community of kindness," said Jakubik. "You're a family, you're all driven towards the same goal."

The event serves as a fundraiser for breast cancer research.

Each participant must raise $2,300.

A mother-daughter bond

The prognosis was good for Jakubik immediately after she was diagnosed since doctors were able to catch it in the early stages.

The great reassurance however, Jakubik said, was having her mother by her side.

"At first it wasn't as frightening because by then I knew a lot about the disease," she said. "I've seen that a diagnosis doesn't mean it's a death sentence. It was still a shock though."

Jakubik said her mother was able to be by her side during her treatment, just like she was for her mother.

She beat her breast cancer after undergoing five surgeries within a span of five months.

"Today, I'm doing great and moving on," Jakubik said.

'Cancer doesn't discriminate'

Neumann works has a nurse practitioner at Comprehensive Health Care for Women in Woodbury, so conducting breast exams is routine for her.

"I do breast exams all the time," she said, "so cancer was really the last thing on my mind."

Neumann was conducting a routine self-exam when she detected a lump.

She was 28 years old at the time.

"I kind of ignored it for a few weeks to see if it would change at all," she said. "I actually went on vacation and kind of forgot about it."

However, the lump didn't change so Neumann headed into the doctor to have it checked out.

She had stage one breast cancer.

"It was really shocking," she said. "It's like somebody punching you in the stomach and all of the wind coming out of you."

Neumann does not have a history of breast cancer in her family.

"It wasn't really on my radar at all," she said.

Neumann underwent a double mastectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy, a year of additional treatment and ultimately reconstructive surgery before getting the clean bill of health.

"My husband and I are driven, motivated, goal oriented people," she said, "so we tried not to sit and dwell."

Neumann said the biggest thing women take from her fight against breast cancer is that even if you don't think you're likely to get it, you still could.

"Breast cancer doesn't discriminate," she said. "A lot of women don't bother to do their self breast exams because they don't have a family history with it, so they just assume that nothing bad will come from it. But that is absolutely not the case."

A first-time participant

Since Neumann works in women's health, she is no stranger to Susan G. Komen.

She has previously participated in the Race for the Cure, but this weekend will mark her first 3-Day for the Cure.

"It was also something I wanted to do," she said. "I started planning shortly after I was diagnosed."

To date, Neumann has raised $2,335 through various fundraising efforts, including the Woodbury

Lions Garage Sale.

Neumann will be walking with a team of three. Their team is "Breast Friends Forever."

She started training for the 3-Day for the Cure in April.

"I'm looking forward to being able to say that I did," she said. "It's such a huge accomplishment.

"I'm a little nervous about the blisters and the soreness of the feet though."

A passion for pink

This year will mark Jakubik's fourth 3-Day for the Cure.

Over the years her team, "The Pink Divas," has raised more than $70,000.

"I want to do what I can to be part of funding research so there can be a cure and one day not have cancer in the world," she said. "I have a daughter so I'm already thinking ahead for her."

Jakubik said her favorite part of the 3-Day for the Cure is the amount of support and camaraderie from the participants and the spectators.

"For the three days that you are there you are just in a different world," she said.

In order to train for the walk, Jakubik said she turned to the Susan G. Komen training schedule.

"It truly is like training for a marathon," she said. "We are out there on Woodbury streets almost every day trying to log those miles.

"The biggest part is getting your feet ready."

Both Jakubik and Neumann said they are excited for this year's event.

"There's a lot of tears, a lot of laughter, a lot of blisters and sore muscles," Jakubik said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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