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Valley woman shares her story of battling metastatic breast cancer

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 11:08 AM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - “Someone going through metastatic breast cancer is dealing with the wildest rollercoaster ride you could ever be on,” Rebecca Schlaegel said.

Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Rebecca Schlaegel and her husband moved to Franklin, West Virginia in 2003, where she would become a special education teacher for Franklin Elementary.

“It was an interesting journey to find techniques and things that really worked for students,” Schlaegel said.

Soon after she started teaching, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After about a year of treatment, it seemed as if she was in the clear, but the cancer came back in 2017.

“That’s what metastatic breast cancer is. Where the breast cancer has returned but in a different part of the body,” Schlaegel explained.

Metastatic breast cancer is known to be treated less aggressively than other stages of breast cancer because the goal is no longer to cure the disease, but rather to maintain the quality of life for the patient. Schlaegel says treatment is lifelong.

“As I learned more about it, I became almost depressed because I knew there was no cure. That my life would consist now of treatments and trying to keep me alive and keep some quality of life as long as we possibly could,” she said.

Schlaegel has undergone chemo, radiation treatments, clinical trials, and she says important not to give up hope.

“You have to keep plugging along and keep trying to take care of yourself the best you can. Realize, you still have things you can offer and give,” she said.

Though she had to medically retire in 2018, Schlaegel has found her way back to education.

She calls it a legacy project.

In 2020, she wrote a children’s book based on conversations with her students called Trevor the Runaway Turkey. Trevor the turkey runs away before the holiday to avoid becoming Thanksgiving dinner.

“In the story, it shows the trials and tribulations he goes through. How he deals with that but realizes in the end that yes if you have got faith belief and friends, family those are the things that are going to get you those tough times,” she said.

Like Trevor, Schlaegal says she has leaned on her husband, family, her community for support encouraging anyone else battling the disease to do the same.

“It’s just another journey and I’m, ready for it. I’m ready to try as hard as I can and fight as hard as I can,” she added.

Schlaegal says she hopes to continue writing.

“I don’t know what lies ahead but I do know that I will rejoice each day that I am alive and be grateful that I have another day.”

She says a portion of the proceeds for Trevor the Runaway Turkey will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

“Friends faith and belief will always see you through hard times. This was a thanksgiving miracle that the animals remembered every year,” Schlaegel read. “That’s the end of the story.”

To learn more about metastatic breast cancer, click here. For more information on “Trevor the Runaway Turkey” click here.

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