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Series of Hope: Breast cancer survivor held out hope, fun, during treatment in Forsyth
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On Nov. 17, 2015, Lindsay Skeen, a 41-year-old mother of two, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, though the disease was only in Stage One when it was detected. - photo by Micah Green

A Forsyth County mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year ago has kicked off her own 2016-17 campaign: “Making Lindsay Fun Again.”

Lindsay Skeen and her family made T-shirts with the logo – a play on Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign slogan – to add some fun and normalcy to Skeen’s recovery, which she says is progressing well since she finished radiation treatments in mid-July.

And while she still has months of hormone therapy and years of taking anti-estrogen medicine ahead of her, the cancer-specific treatments, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are behind her.

On Nov. 17, 2015, the 41-year-old mother of two was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, though the disease was only in Stage One when it was detected.

For more than six months, Skeen underwent intensive treatment to fight the cancer, her doctors telling her that her young age made her more able to withstand therapies.

“After the diagnosis, the [doctors] said, ‘we’re going to do surgery on you,’ and I think it was December 29 … so it was like, ‘Happy New Year, go get surgery,’” she said.

Despite ushering in the New Year with a painful surgery and subsequent chemotherapy treatments, Skeen and her family kept up the campaign.

“We named the tumor ‘Turd Ferguson’ after the Saturday Night Live jeopardy stuff, so the whole goal was to get Turd out of mom and that was the joke,” she said. “My son would go to pre-K and he’d come home and be like, ‘Mom, so and so’s mom has the same thing you have – she’s got a turd in her too!’

“So we got rid of turd and [my kids] were psyched about that. All of my treatment post-surgery was to prevent recurrence.”

Skeen knew once she began chemotherapy she would lose her shoulder-length hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. To again make light of the situation, she went all out, buying blue Manic Panic hair dye.

Around this time, too, Skeen took part in Northside Hospital-Forsyth’s Look Good Feel Better program, an initiative started 25 years ago by the Personal Care Products Council Foundation, which later partnered with the American Cancer Society to help female cancer patients look and feel better.

“There were only three of us and we had all just kind of started [treatment,]” she said. “We were all very concerned with wigs and scarves and I’m sitting there with this bright blue hair that has blue hairs falling out.”

“The doctors were like, ‘this is new, right?’ And I’m like, ‘well what are you going to do? I might as well; when can a 40-year-old woman, suburban housewife in a very conservative area, have bright blue hair?’”

Ultimately, Skeen decided against wearing a wig and stuck to hats and headscarves, but she raved about the Look Good Feel Good program.

“I’m not a big makeup person, but it was so fantastic,” she said. “The girl teaching it had been through special training and all of that and the [makeup] they give you is awesome. It’s really, really nice stuff and every product possible.

“Not only is the [instructor] teaching you the best way to apply makeup, but she tells you, ‘here’s what’s going to happen, your eyebrows are going to go, your eyelashes are going to go, here’s how to make it look like you have eyelashes from a distance.’”

And she got something else out of the program, too: a feeling of normalcy during a time when her life was anything but routine.

“It’s [there] to help you feel kind of normal when you leave the house,” Skeen said. “You can’t stay in the house for six months – you’re going to go out, you’re going to interact with people and it’s a weird enough feeling to have this stupid disease that weighs on you, but you want to be normal, or at least look normal a little bit.

“People already kind of double-take at you, but this way at least you can feel a little better.”

The normalcy aspect continued to follow Skeen through the rest of her treatment, and in mid-July, she completed both chemotherapy and 35 radiation sessions.

She said it’s been a journey to get back to anything that seems normal.

“I’m trying to figure out how not to think about [cancer] every day, how to have a good perspective,” Skeen said. “My whole body has changed; now I’ve got to figure out how to get myself back in shape, lose the weight that I gained.

“One thing I’d like people to know, too, is just because someone is done with treatment doesn’t mean they’re fine. I know the mental aspect – people can’t see it and a lot of people don’t talk about it – but I definitely have a new perspective.”

And while Skeen and her family have been working to make the experience as humorous as possible, she said it’s left her with scars.

But this year’s goal is to make Lindsay fun again – and she’s campaigning hard.

“I was so psyched for 40 – it was going to be awesome. We were going to travel and have all this stuff to do, and then someone just pulled the rug out from under [me] and you’re like, ‘Wait, what?’” Skeen said. “So we made a joke this year that we were going to redo 40, because 40 kind of sucked. But then I was like no, I’m not going to redo it. I did it and we’re done. Now we’re 41 and going to move on with that.

“I went from fun to sucking. Now we’re back.” For more information on the Look Good Feel Good program, visit lookgoodfeelbetter.org.