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Local women battle cancer

Welch and Shields, strangers just blocks apart, fight a common enemy
By: Joyia Emard, Loomis News Staff Writer
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Two Loomis businesswomen have been waging the battles of their lives. The women have never met, though their businesses are just blocks apart on Horseshoe Bar Road. Now, they share a bond as members of a large sisterhood of women who have developed breast cancer. Julie Welch, owner of G’Day Donuts, and Valerie Shields, owner of Valerie’s Gallery, have both undergone surgeries and treatment for breast cancer. “I feel very fortunate to be alive,” Shields said. Welch said she considers herself “lucky” because her cancer was found early and because there is a treatment. She said she had no medical insurance, but was able to participate in a state-sponsored program called “Every Woman Counts,” which paid for her testing and biopsy. She also said she received excellent treatment through Medi-Cal. The women found lumps in their breasts and went to their doctors for exams. Welch said her lump felt like “a small, hard marble.” In September, doctors performed a lumpectomy on Shields and removed just the cancerous tumor. Welch underwent a double mastectomy. The women received chemotherapy treatment that caused them to lose their hair and suffer nerve pain called neuropathy. “It made me feel tired and fatigued for a few days after chemotherapy,” Welch said. Shields said losing her hair was difficult. “I miss my hair badly,” Shields said. Neither was able to work during their treatment. Welch said her daughter Corynn who recently graduated from Del Oro High School, got up early and worked at G’Day Donuts from 5 a.m. until class time. Corynn’s senior project raised funds for breast cancer research. Shields said she was unable to keep her store open during her surgery and treatment, but hopes to re-open it soon. “I can be just as tenacious as the cancer,” Shields said. “I know I have to be available to help someone – to give back somehow,” she added. Shields will continue a five-year treatment of tamoxifen. Welch will go through breast reconstruction surgery. “Breast cancer changed everything, but I’ve had to embrace it,” Shields said. Welch said she was amazed at the caring and support she received from customers, family and loved ones. “Everyone has been wonderful,” Welch said. Shields credits her husband, Doug, and sons with helping her get through the last few months. She said of the relationship she has with her husband, “It’s changed both of us for the better.” ------------------- BREAST CANCER STATISTICS Nearly 200,000 women are diagnosed annually 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed during their lifetime. Over 30% of women are diagnosed after breast cancer has spread. Twenty percent of breast cancers are detected from a physical exam. When detected early, the 5-year survival rate is 98 percent. EARLY DETECTION Self exams: Do monthly Clinical exams: By medical professional, annually for women ages 20 to 40 Mammograms: Recommended after age 40 every one to two years PREVENTION TIPS Control your weight Exercise. Know your family history of breast cancer. Find out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Source: American Cancer Society, breastcancer.org