The cancer journey of this joyful newlywed and new mom began in December 2008 at age 35, when she met her future husband Jeremy. They became engaged in just a few months. The soon-to-be bride encouraged her fiancé to care for his health; she would also by getting her first mammogram, which showed a suspicious mass in her right breast.
“Intuitively I knew the tumor was cancer as soon as I saw the ultrasound,” Winter said.
St.Vincent breast surgeon Thomas Schmidt performed a lumpectomy, and pathology confirmed ductal carcinoma, a cancer that forms in the mammary glands. Dr. Schmidt then performed a partial mastectomy. Treatment continued with chemotherapy and radiation over the next 18 months.
The Winters delayed their wedding during treatment, but in October 2010, after Mara’s chemotherapy port was removed, they planned their big day for February 2011.
“It was such a celebration,” said Jenny Godby, Mara’s mother, and a member of the planning committee for the Saks Fifth Avenue Key to the Cure. Godby, who will be a guest of CardioChek at this year’s gala, became involved in raising money and awareness for St.Vincent Cancer Care after her daughter’s diagnosis. “I love Key to the Cure because it encompasses all women’s cancers. I am so proud that here in the heartland, we are the highest grossing Saks Fifth Avenue Key to the Cure Gala in the country.”
Also apparent is Godby’s pride in her daughter, who treated the cancer with grace and endless optimism, she said. “Mara never let the cancer take over her body or her life. She believed it developed for a reason, and it would serve as a teacher for all of us,” Godby said.
Godby and Winter brought inspirational stickers—butterflies, dolphins, Tinkerbell, crosses, flowers, hearts—for the chemotherapy nurses to place on Winter’s infusion bags. “I insisted that we express the treatment in positive terms. We never used words like ‘meds’ or ‘poison’ or ‘toxin,’” Winter said.
Last month, after a natural conception, Winter gave birth to a perfectly healthy daughter, Brooklyn Noel Winter. While in labor, Dr. Schmidt visited to check on his patient.
“He drove up to St.Vincent Carmel Hospital after work on a Friday,” Godby said. “As much adversity as he has to deal with all day long, he took the time to do this. That says a lot about the culture at St.Vincent. I really don’t know how they have the capacity to care so much for so many.”
Saks Fifth Avenue Key to the Cure is a nationwide fundraising initiative for women’s cancer treatment and research. Tickets to this year’s event are $250, with a limit of four tickets per person; Tables that seat 10 guests begin at $5,000. To purchase, visit give.stvincent.org/keytothecure or call Ann Hall at the St.Vincent Foundation, (317) 338-5090.