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Published March 12, 2013, 11:37 PM

Her Voice: MSUM students affected by cancer win scholarship

MOORHEAD – Minnesota State University Moorhead students Alex Gebeke and Lacey Guck learned how frightening cancer can be at an early age. When they were just elementary students, both women had mothers who were diagnosed with cancer.

By: Tracy Frank, INFORUM

Her Voice is a weekly article about women in or from our area and how they make an impact on the world around them. If you know someone SheSays should feature in HerVoice, email Tracy Frank at tfrank@forumcomm.com.

MOORHEAD – Minnesota State University Moorhead students Alex Gebeke and Lacey Guck learned how frightening cancer can be at an early age.

When they were just elementary students, both women had mothers who were diagnosed with cancer.

Gebeke, from Casselton, N.D., who now lives in Fargo, was 11 years old when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 38.

“I was very scared,” Gebeke said. “All I knew when the word cancer came up was that it was bad and people died from it.”

Gebeke’s mom was diagnosed very early on, went through a double-mastectomy and reconstructive surgery right away, and was able to beat the disease.

Her aunt and grandma are also breast cancer survivors, so though she’s only a college junior, Gebeke has screenings done and will start having mammograms at age 28, she said. She also tries to take care of herself by exercising regularly and eating right, she said.

She hopes to have genetic testing done one day and if it shows a strong likelihood of cancer in her future, she would have a double-mastectomy done as a preventive measure, she said.

Gebeke is an athletic training major who hopes to someday work for a professional or college volleyball or football team.

Guck was 8 years old when she found out her mom had colon cancer.

“It was hard to understand everything,” she said. “I remember a lot of doctor visits and I remember when they took her in for surgery.”

It was a scary experience, but her mom had a partial colectomy and has been cancer-free ever since, said Guck, who lives in Moorhead and is from New York Mills, Minn.

Through testing, both Guck and her oldest brother found out they carry a gene for Lynch syndrome. It’s a type of inherited cancer of the digestive tract that increases a person’s risk for cancers of the stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder ducts, upper urinary tract, brain, skin, prostate, uterine lining and ovaries, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

“There were so many people who had colon cancer on my mother’s side that we thought this has got to be a gene,” Guck said.

Because of the test result and her family history, Guck will start having annual colonoscopies at age 25, she said. She also exercises a few times a week and buys produce for snacking to stay healthy, she said.

Guck is a freshman majoring in business with an emphasis in marketing. She is also pre-med and said her experience with cancer as a child inspired her to pursue a career in medicine.

“As a doctor someday, it will be so much easier to spread the word about cancer screenings and health,” she said.

Both women are the first recipients of the Go Pink with the Dragons Scholarship, which awarded them each $250 for their spring semesters, according to MSUM.

“I was really excited that I got it,” Gebeke said. “Breast cancer is such a big part of my life.”

“It meant a lot just to be able to get the word out there about this scholarship and about early cancer screening,” Guck said. “It means so much to everybody in our family that there is a scholarship for early cancer screening.”

Scholarship applicants have to either be a cancer survivor or have an immediate family member who has had cancer. They also have to show service and leadership in bringing awareness to others about the importance of medical screening and early cancer detection.

Both women participate in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Fundraiser, they said.

They also stress the importance of early detection.

“Early detection is the key,” Gebeke said. “Even if it’s not in your family, go and get checked because you just never know.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526.

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