Steppin’ Out in Pink honorary chair shares message of hope after cancer

This weekend, thousands of people will be Steppin’ Out in Pink to fight breast cancer. The annual event has raised more than $5.2 million for the Gundersen Medical Foundation.

This year’s honorary chair is sharing a story of positivity after being successfully treated for cancer three times. Through it all, she’s found the meaning of balance in life after cancer.

Back in 1996, Candice Bucheger, of Onalaska, was at home recovering from a hysterectomy when the doctor called.

“She said, ‘We found a little cancer,'” said Bucheger, the honorary chairwoman for Steppin’ Out In Pink.

Bucheger was told she would have to undergo another surgery and chemotherapy for fallopian tube cancer.

“It was just a punch in the gut,” Bucheger said, recalling the conversation.

She was told of her diagnosis in July and went through the treatments starting in September.

“I was good for a long time,” Bucheger said.

But in 2015, she started to get what seemed to be a series of bladder infections. Doctors tried to find the source, but couldn’t find anything.

“It was a couple of weeks, and there was something not right. I didn’t feel right,” Bucheger recalled.

Finally, they found it using an MRI. She had a small tumor in her kidney.

“So I had the upper part of my left kidney removed,” Bucheger said.

Then, in 2018, she went in for an annual physical and mammogram. Her doctor shared with her the news once again.

“He pointed out that there was a little growth,” Bucheger said.

They did a needle biopsy, which confirmed it was breast cancer.

“Candi was a diligent person doing her screening mammograms,” said Dr. Benjamin Parsons, a hematologist-oncologist with Gundersen Health System.

1 in 8 women is diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. Doctors recommend annual screenings after a certain age.

“For women, starting mammograms after age 50 in general, unless there are significant risk factors,” Parsons said.

In Bucheger’s case, she said she underwent a lumpectomy and 33 days of radiation.

“Oftentimes, early diagnosis leads to a better prognosis and less overall treatment,” Parsons said/

There’s something else that has helped her get through cancer time and time again.

“That’s one good thing that I did learn from the oncologist is that you need balance,” Bucheger said.

When she was first diagnosed with cancer in 1996, doctors pushed back starting chemo, so she could feel good for a family trip.

“We were going to go watch Brett Favre play for the Green Bay Packers,” Bucheger said.

And after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was back playing her favorite sport just weeks later.

“Pickleball is just so good mentally and physically for you,” Bucheger said.

It was also through the support of her family, friends and medical team, that she found there were others fighting with her. She kept cards from loved ones saying they were there for her.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you feel so alone. But it doesn’t take long before you realize you aren’t,” Bucheger said.

It’s these experiences that taught her to balance out the negative with the positive.

“I changed the first time I was diagnosed with cancer,” Bucheger said.

Now she’s spreading her message of being a fighter with other survivors. She’s been passed along pink boxing gloves from other honor chairs with words of hope.

“We can beat this! Knock out the Big C. That’s the one,” Bucheger said, reading off the words.

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