Lincolnton native endures two bouts with cancer
LINCOLNTON – Bethany Lerch was tested early in life. And according to the 26-year-old Lincolnton native, she passed with flying colors.
Lerch lived a pretty normal life growing up in Lincolnton with her parents and three brothers. Her mother, Linda McGinnis, was diagnosed with breast cancer when Lerch was very young, but after chemotherapy and radiation, sent the cancer into remission.
“She was in Raleigh doing her treatments and when she got finished with that, we thought we would be fine as a family,” Lerch said.
Lerch was in the clear, or so she thought. Just a few years after her mother’s cancer dissipated, Lerch was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphona. She was 13.
“I think I was so young and everything happened so fast, it was a bit of a whirlwind,” Lerch said. “We had the biopsies, the chemo sessions and the radiation. Everything just happened so fast. It was just a very quick chapter in my life.”
Each chemotherapy treatment lasted five days, Lerch said, and her parents would alternate taking her to Winston-Salem, where the treatment center was located. After about four months, Lerch said the cancer was gone.
Lerch finished school at Lincolnton High before eventually moving to Matthews, where she lives now with her husband, Brett, and daughter, Addy, 6. She’s also expecting a little boy in October.
Everything was going smoothly, she said, but because of her history with cancer, along with her mother’s, doctors wanted to monitor her closely.
In 2010, she got more bad news.
“There were no symptoms or signs, anything like that,” Lerch said. “I went in for a baseline mammogram, and they found the cancer then.”
Doctors found a lump in Lerch’s left breast, but because of her previous experience with cancer, she was left with only one choice.
“The typical process would have been to just remove the spot where the cancer was and do some radiation,” she said. “Because of my history, I wasn’t allowed to do any more radiation. My body just couldn’t accept it anymore. It would do more harm than good.”
The only option left to Lerch was a mastectomy.
“With that, I decided to go ahead and have both breasts removed,” Lerch said.
It was a tough decision, but one Lerch felt she had to make.
“I did what I knew I had to do to save my sanity in the future,” Lerch said. “I knew that if I opted to remove one breast and not the other, then I would be constantly worrying about cancer in the future. I wanted to end that worry.”
Her resolution resulted in anger from her three brothers, who didn’t understand why their sister had to go through such a terrible ordeal, she said.
“My family, as sad as it is to say, was kind of used to cancer,” Lerch said. “But for my husband and his family, all this was brand new to them.”
Now cancer-free, Lerch is a regular participant in Relay for Life. A group of her friends recently started a new team, Bethany’s Bosom Buddies.
“I really enjoy Relay because I think it’s just a celebration of life,” she said. “It’s a celebration of the research and how far we’ve come and the medicines and the technology we have available to fight cancer.”