Lisa Plante, 51, of Sacramento, California, was back in Princeton this past weekend, wearing a colorful boa around her neck as she walked in the Relay for Life cancer fundraiser on the athletic track of Princeton High School, where she graduated in 1981.
Plante has been in the trenches as a two-time cancer survivor. She has gone through kidney and breast cancers, lost her mother, Joan Kroll, to pancreatic cancer last Nov. 4, and has a husband who has survived skin cancer. She noted that he is also disabled.
“It’s been hard,” she said, looking back on all that.
Plante grew up in the Little Elk Lake area south of Princeton. She was diagnosed with kidney cancer six years ago and breast cancer three years ago.
“I never said, ‘Why me?’” she said. But she did say that the most difficult part was going through cancer with no other relatives around her besides her husband and two children. She was in California, and her network of brothers and sisters were in Minnesota. She explained that she would have welcomed support if they had been close by.
The “scariest thing” at the same time was finding a way to tell her family, she recalled. After getting the kidney cancer diagnoses over the phone from her doctor, she decided to postpone calling family members about it until she learned more details.
Out of her experience of having two cancers, she said that going to a doctor for something makes her wonder what might be found next.
“It can hit you any time when you least expect it,” she said about cancer. “Honestly, it makes you love life more. I’ve always been happy-go-lucky, (but) it makes you remember to tell everybody you love them.”
Plante said her mother’s last hours of life were a “great experience,” that it “really showed love.” She explained that many friends and family members were gathered around her at the time of her passing.
Plante said she has also learned how important it is to offer someone who is struggling with cancer some kind of support and that it doesn’t have to be a specific offer.
“A friend of mine called and said, ‘What can I do for you?’” Plante said. “I thought that was the sweetest thing,” and remembers replying, ‘Lady, I just need a hug.”
Plante also said that her path to the correct diagnoses for her kidney cancer was a bit bumpy. She explained that she had an inkling for about a year that something was wrong and then one day when she woke up bloated, she called a doctor and his diagnosis was that her problem was depression.
She went for another checkup 10 months later and said, during a test, a medical staff member saw something and Plante was recommended to get more extensive testing. She then had a CAT scan and found there was kidney cancer. The treatment included the removal of one kidney and the adrenal gland atop it. She also had radiation treatment.
For her breast cancer treatment, she had a lumpectomy and radiation. Both her cancers were stage 1, which is an early stage.
Plante said she is a believer in that women should get a mammogram once a year. She said she had a mammogram every six months for two years after her breast cancer diagnosis, and then went back to once per year.
“Don’t put it off; it’s hard to self-examine,” she said.