It was only eight years ago that Cheryl Sommerfield was in for the fight of her life and was told she should prepare for hospice care. At 52, she was diagnosed with stage four pelvic cancer, which had also spread to the lymph nodes in her neck.
At the time, she was focused on caring for her mother who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Cheryl had put her own symptoms aside. “When I saw blood in my urine though is when I knew something was wrong,” she says.
Even though the odds were against her, Cheryl was determined to fight and underwent a long and painful seven months of radiation and chemotherapy at West Cancer Center hoping to buy more time. “The treatment was brutal and my prognosis was grim,” she says.
In 2014 after the chemo and radiation, Cheryl was cancer free and still is to this day. She is incredibly grateful to the doctors at the West Cancer Center and her friends who she calls her Cancer Fighting Team.
Ginger Swatley is one of her dear friends who supported her through her illness. The two met at church and became close through cycling together in the annual FIGHT ON event held every September.
“There are many races in our community, but there is none more important to my heart than the FIGHT ON bike ride,” Cheryl says.
This year will be Cheryl and Ginger’s fifth year cycling at the event together with their team called Kick Cancer’s A**. “This year we are dedicating our ride to a fellow at church who just completed his throat cancer treatment at West Cancer Center,” she says. “The ride is a huge challenge for me and reminds me of how thankful I am to be able to participate.”
FIGHT ON bring together walkers, runners, and cyclists to rally around fighting cancer. It’s the main fundraising event for the University of Tennessee/West Institute for Cancer Research. The event hosts three different cycling races, a 5K run, and a one-mile tribute walk for cancer survivors.
Cheryl and Ginger have already begun training for the 40-mile ride in September. So far they have worked up to 23 miles with the goal to increase their average speed in the coming months. Cheryl was not a cyclist before her cancer recovery, and getting used to the saddle was difficult because of the site of her cancer.
Ginger says, “She looks fantastic and is an absolute beast on that bicycle. My children surprised me with a new bike for my birthday, and Cheryl has been instrumental in helping me learn the ins and outs of changing gears to make those hills easier to climb.”
Cheryl hopes that her story and involvement with FIGHT ON will give hope and inspiration to those going through similar situations with cancer.
“Even if you have not experienced a diagnosis of cancer, you likely know someone that has. The journey is tough and I am devoted to helping in any way that I can,” says Cheryl.
You can join Cheryl and Ginger and more than 2,000 others from the Mid-South in the fight against cancer by registering for FIGHT ON at WestFightOn.org. Whether you cycle, run, walk, or simply cheer on the sidelines, you show your support for all those whose lives have been touched by cancer.
By Krista Martin