FAIRMONT - Lola Talledge of Fairmont has fought cancer on and off since 1986, when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
Talledge has been the spokeswoman for Relay for Like. This year, she is the local survivor story for the American Cancer Society's Daffodil Days.
Her cancer is in remission and has been since April. Talledge's cancer story begins with a nickel-sized lump found during an exam in 1986.
"Soon after, I was in surgery and I had my left breast removed," she said. "For all of 1987, I was undergoing chemo, and then I went on a drug that was used at the time to maintain. I was on that for five years because that was the longest I could go."
Her cancer went into remission until 1999, when Talledge began retaining fluid around her lungs.
"I was having trouble breathing, and I'd get winded easily," she recalled. "I thought it was because I was overweight, so I went on a crash diet and lost 40 pounds, but that didn't help."
Doctors in Rochester confirmed the cancer had returned.
Talledge received lots of chemotherapy and spent the next 10 years on a variety of test products to keep the cancer at bay.
"I think I've been on every product out there since 1999," she said. "Each one would work for a while, and then the cancer cell count would go back up, meaning it wasn't working anymore.
In December 2009, the fluid built up behind her lungs, pushing them away from the ribcage. It took about three months to fully drain it away. At one point, Talledge said it was estimated they were draining about a liter of fluid per day.
In spite of it all, Talledge considers herself lucky.
"I lost my hair twice, and I lost a lot of weight, but I never needed to go on bed rest," she said. "The best thing I think I did was going back to work, because then I didn't have time to sit around and dwell on it."
Talledge worked at Profinium (formerly Martin County National Bank) for many years, retiring in 2003. Not only did she enjoy being able to work during her battles, but she also received support from her husband, three children, nine grandchildren and the rest of her family.
"The first time I lost my hair, back in '87, we went to meet the family for dinner, and I was wearing a ball cap. My grandson told me, 'No, Grandma, you got it wrong. You're supposed to put it on backwards,'" Talledge recalled.
Talledge doesn't do a lot of volunteering for cancer-related causes, but is willing to help out when asked.
"If someone calls me and asks me to talk to someone, I'm glad to be able to do that," she said. "I do limit myself for volunteering, because I worked for so many years, it is nice to relax. But I'm always glad to help however I can."
In the meantime, Talledge is enjoying life, planning upcoming trips to Hawaii and Texas.
"One of the things I hear from people is, 'Your attitude is so good,'" Talledge said. "Well, why not? You got to look ahead, keep your mind busy and don't spend time worrying about it. The whole healing process relies a lot on your attitude."
Pre-orders for Daffodil Days are being taken now through Feb. 22, with arrangements ranging from $10, $15, $25 and $75. For more information or to pre-order, contact Sue Horman at (507) 235-9423 or Callie Goerndt at (507) 399-1647.