Gloria Reynolds has one thought on her mind — how blessed she is.
The Myrtle Beach native is preparing to walk 13.1 miles in the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon, a challenge she is attempting despite her stage 4 metastatic breast cancer diagnosis.
In 2016, Reynolds received the diagnosis, 15 years after she beat stage 2 breast cancer.
“It was never ‘Why me?’” Reynolds said. “It was ‘Why not me?’ I didn’t ever question or get angry or really I haven’t been scared ever.”
In 2001, Reynolds found a lump. After meeting with a physician’s assistant, she learned the lump was cancerous and they talked about treatment plans. To fight the cancer, Reynolds endured chemotherapy treatments, forcing her to deal with hair loss, queasiness and tiredness.
At the time, the treatment helped her beat the cancer.
During her time in remission, Reynolds and two others started a group at her church called the “Bosom Buddies” as an outlet for women diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She would view herself as on the other side of the river,” Reynolds’ daughter, Whitney Yarborough, said. “She’s always tried to use her own circumstances to help others.”
But in 2016, the 68-year-old went to the doctor with a cough that she couldn’t get rid of. Finally, a lung specialist found a spot and recommended a PET scan that revealed cancer in her bones.
“I asked Dr. Goldberg which bones,” Reynolds said. “And he said ‘all of them.’”
Now, Reynolds takes an oral chemo pill and goes to the doctor’s once every four weeks for chemo treatment — a routine she’ll do for the rest of her life.
But, Reynolds said, she doesn’t have the normal side effects given off by chemo this time around.
“It’s just like somebody with diabetes taking their insulin,” she said. “I take my chemo. And it’s working.”
Reynolds said her cancer is currently stable and has not spread any further than her bones.
Faith and the mini marathon
For Reynolds, her family, faith and a strong group of friends have helped her to overcome her diagnosis.
Four to five times a week, Reynolds and two of her friends walk up to six miles, talking and praying together, a practice Reynolds started just before her first diagnosis.
Now, Reynolds and her friend Van Weston are preparing to walk in their fourth Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon on Oct. 20. To walk the half marathon, 13.1 miles, participants have to finish within three and a half hours.
“It’s a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “It’s knowing that, gosh, here I am with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and I can do this? I am blessed. I never forget it for a minute that I’m blessed.”
Attending the All Saints Church in Pawleys Island every week, Reynolds finds peace in her faith — a practice that has never wavered.
“I know, I know, I know that Jesus is walking with me every minute,” Reynolds said. “So that gives you confidence you’re not in this alone.”
But, Reynolds said, her son, daughter and husband have been a huge support for her during this time.
Despite living in Nebraska, Yarborough keeps in touch with her mother, inviting her to come out and visit Reynolds’ three grandchildren whenever she has a chance.
“The blessing has really been that it’s forced her to retire,” Yarborough said.
Reynolds has even had time to take trips to Hawaii with Yarborough and her husband.
But cancer isn’t a stranger in Yarborough’s family, with her dad previously battling prostate cancer.
“Both of my parents and both of my in-laws have had cancer and have defied statistics,” Yarborough said. “You don’t have to just surrender to a cancer diagnosis, there’s a lot of fighting to be done.”
While taking the chemo pills has helped Reynolds so far, she is aware there’s a chance they could stop working. Yarborough said her doctor is positive, saying they will move on to the next trial medication available, if that time does come.
“Each day’s a gift from [God], and if at some point in time it quits working and my time’s up, well, then that’s going to be a gift too, because he’s promising me something much more,” Reynolds said.