BOLINGBROOK – Bolingbrook resident Susan Kaegler is an educator.
Although she no longer teaches preschool at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Downers Grove, the Menomonee Falls, Wisc. native now enlightens people with her life's story.
Kaegler greets people with a warm smile, telling listeners about her upbringing, her husband Don and their 16-year-old daughter, Erin; she talks about her former life in the Bay Area – before the Kaegler family settled in Bolingbrook in 2005. She muses about her dog and her passion for the outdoors and her garden, and she talks about her bout with breast cancer – a battle she's fiercely fought since 2010.
It is, unfortunately, a familiar struggle for Kaegler's family.
When Kaegler was 10 years old, her aunt died from cancer. Both of her grandmas and an uncle were cancer survivors as well.
Kaegler believes open, honest dialogue about the disease is therapeutic and a precursor to action.
"It helps to share journey with others," Kaegler said. "If you don't surround yourself with a good support system, cancer can get to you – it can make you feel so lonely. But, talking lets others know what you are going through, it raises awareness and educates."
Kaegler explains that she has remained the same positive, cheerful, outgoing person was before the diagnosis.
"I didn't want to let cancer cripple me and hinder my way of life," Kaegler said. "Life and happiness are precious; they are worth fighting for till the very end."
A battle against cancer is not a war meant to be waged alone, she added. In addition to her familial support system, Kaegler found solace in the American Cancer Society.
A nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem, the ACS funds research, assists people dealing with the disease stay healthy, and provides them with support and treatment.
"When you are diagnosed with cancer, you are automatically part of another family," Kaegler said. "They understand what you are going through and help in any way possible. The ACS give people hope and there is always someone present to hold your hand."
With her breast cancer now in remission, Kaegler is proud to call herself a "survivor."
She has also gone back to educating, joining the fight against cancer and sharing her story whenever possible. Additionally, she fundraises for ACS, generating money that is donated to cancer research.
For the second consecutive year, Kaegler will speak at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk on Sunday at the Promenade Bolingbrook.
"This event is such a gratifying, humbling and healing experience," Kaegler said. "It brings awareness to those who don't know what cancer survivors and patients go through. We have a voice, and I am so proud to have my voice heard."
If you go
What: Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, a non-competitive, 3- to 5-mile walk sponsored by the American Cancer Society
When: 9 a.m. Sunday
Where: Promenade Bolingbrook
Details: For more information, visit cancer.org