In 2002, when Martha Gunter was diagnosed with breast cancer at 45, the Memphis native and cash posting specialist with Baptist Medical Group literally began her own walk to recovery. Her initial treatment plan included chemotherapy, a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Today, her care revolves around a pair of walking shoes.
“Last year, I wanted to do something different to celebrate my survivorship and decided I would try to walk five different Susan G. Komen walks.” This year, she has walked in four races to date, with her husband waiting at every finish line. She’s traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, Ft Worth, Texas, and Jonesboro, Arkansas. The fifth walk will be Race for the Cure in Memphis on Oct. 28.
Her belief in mammography screenings and early detection is solidly rooted in her own experience with breast cancer and her family history. Both her mother and grandmother were diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, with her mother dying directly from the disease. Her grandmother died from diabetes complications.
“I had always gotten mammograms and was planning on my annual exam but put it off because my son was a busy high school senior.” During that time, she suffered from a sinus infection that took her to her family doctor. When he noticed she hadn’t had a mammogram, he insisted on scheduling one. Like many survivors, when the scan revealed cancer, she was shocked. “I didn’t feel bad or wasn’t sick.”
Fortunately, the tumor was small and her prognosis extremely good. After losing a good friend who didn’t get screened and who died before she turned 40, Martha has a few words of advice. “Don’t put it off. She didn’t go and now she’s gone.”
Like many women, she felt overwhelmed when losing her hair. “Even though the doctor said it would happen, I didn’t expect it to affect me so much.” One evening, she decided shaving her head would help her cope.
Her mother’s diagnosis influenced her the most. With only surgery and no other treatments, her mother’s cancer returned three times, eventually taking her life. Martha’s own daughter profoundly felt the loss, choosing medicine as a career. Today, she is a doctorate-level nurse who teaches at The University of Incarnate Word in San Antonio.
Looking to 2018, Martha hopes to walk 15 different Susan G. Komen walks—one for each year of her survivorship. Meanwhile, she is open to sharing her story with anyone and continually encourages men and women to get mammograms every year.
“I challenge all men and women to walk one of the breast cancer walks or to donate to breast cancer research and help find a cure.”
Baptist is sponsoring a team for the Susan G. Komen Memphis-MidSouth Race for the Cure on Saturday, Oct.28. To join, sign up at http://bpt.st/2wYtbv0.