beats cancer, helps others
breast cancer survivor runs race to help expand research
into treatment options.
She ran her race and won. Now she runs a race for others.
Tarrant Countys affiliate of the Susan G. Komen
Race for the Cure, a nonprofit organization that promotes
breast care awareness and research, is preparing for
its 12th annual 5K run at 8 a.m. Saturday in Sundance
Laura Martin, a senior kinesiology major, plans on being
at the starting line with her fiancé, but her
true race began 19 months ago.
When she was 19, Martin was diagnosed with breast cancer
during the fall of her junior year.
I felt like it wasnt really happening to
me, Martin said. For the first couple of
weeks, I wouldnt say that I had cancer, only that
I had a malignant tumor. For some reason the c
word was too scary.
The news came as a shock to Martins friends as
I remember leaving art class and having 10 messages
from her mom on my phone, telling me to come to the
hospital, said Eleanor Burkett, a senior theater
performance major and close friend of Martins.
They waited until I got there to tell her the
She didnt believe us at first, Burkett
said. She was scared and was crying but, she is
the strongest woman I know so I knew she could beat
Martin beat the odds, said Bether Netherby, vice chairwoman
for the race.
Laura is the exception, Netherby said. You
will have a lot of TCU students that are affected by
parents, grandparents and relatives, but you are not
going to have that many breast cancer survivors that
are TCU students.
Among the 13,000 expected runners Saturday is Martins
fiancé, Justin Schlager.
Martin called Schlager, her then ex-boyfriend, in Wichita
Falls after a biopsy revealed the tumor was malignant.
The two had been separated for nine months and had barely
talked to each other.
Schlager said he wasnt picking up her phone calls
at first, but realized that something serious had happened
by how frequent his phone started to ring.
Martin and Schlager first met at a power lifting competition,
where Schlager won best lifter, and Martin
handed out the trophies.
I thought she wanted to date one of my friends,
Schlager said. But I approached her and gave her
The biopsy was one of three surgeries Martin would have
but it was enough for Schlager to visit Martin while
she was recovering and rekindle their relationship.
The first surgery made me realize that we should
be together, Schlager said. We started talking
about us, and two weeks later we were officially back
After her biopsy, Martin had a mastectomy the
removal of breast tissu e to completely remove the tumor
and then replaced the lost tissue with an implant.
The recovery process forced Martin to take a semester
off in the fall of 2002 and move in with her brother.
Burkett said she moved in for three weeks to trade off
shifts with Martins brother.
She had drainage pumps that she couldnt
drain by herself so I would help with that, taking her
to see her doctor and reminding her when to take her
medicine, Burkett said.
Schlager started making frequent trips from Wichita
Falls to visit his recovering girlfriend.
I didnt want to lose her, Schlager
said. I would go down there three days a week,
as often as I could.
Martin said it didnt take long to recover physically
but the emotional recovery did take some time.
It took a while, Martin said. I cant
remember a day that everything became OK.
Burkett said Schlager adds to Martins strength
and had a lot to do with her recovery.
Four months after Martins last surgery, Schlager
proposed during a weekend of driving four wheelers next
to the Red River.
I had a huge sign made that said, Laura,
will you marry me? hanging next to the river,
Schlager said. I had the ring in my pocket and
she stopped when she saw the sign, and then I proposed,
right in front of 20 friends and family.
Martin says she is cancer free now. She returned to
TCU in spring 2003 and ran in The Race for the Cure
5K run. When she does it again this weekend, she will
be accompanied by Schlager.
She is doing so great, Burkett said. She
is planning her wedding and got certified to be a personal
Martin graduates in December, and her wedding is set
for New Years Eve.
Martin and Schlager plan to move to Wichita Falls, where
she has been put in charge of starting a new Race for
the Cure run.
She wants to volunteer her time and help breast
cancer patients going through a hard time, Schlager
said. I think she wants to make it a pretty big
part of her life.
Martin said that before she had her biopsy, two doctors
told her she was too young for the lump in her breast
to be cancer.
I think people should be aware that this disease
isnt a post menopausal disease, Martin said.
Its not discriminatory against age, sex,
or race, and doesnt care if youre young,
old, man or woman.
Given the chance, Martin said she wouldnt want
to change the fact that she got cancer.
It made me realize what is important in life,
Martin said. I dont think you can live life
wishing you could change what has happened to you. Some
things are out of our control. Its what we do
with them after the fact that matters.