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'Hope is the word' | Toledo doctor helped hundreds through their battles with breast cancer before becoming a patient herself

Toledo's RFTC celebrates Dr. Marilyn Agee, who has patiently guided many women through a breast cancer diagnosis and now has shared that experience as a survivor.

TOLEDO, Ohio — Each year, the Susan G. Komen Toledo Race for the Cure is named in celebration of a champion in the fight against breast cancer.

This year's honoree is Dr. Marilyn Agee.

"I thought I was the healthiest person I knew," she said. "I was doing marathons, half-marathons, triathlons, duathlons. I was really active."

She's been running the Race for the Cure since about 1998 and would run for her patients with breast cancer.

Agee was doing everything right when she discovered a lump in her breast on Christmas Day in 2012.

A doctor, she was active and getting her yearly mammograms.

"I thought I was really healthy, so it was quite a surprise to say the least. Christmas Day 2012, I just woke up, kind of stretched and felt that something didn't feel right and I felt my left breast and I had a lump." 

It was about the size of a half-dollar.

"I thought it was nothing because it wasn't there yesterday, so it couldn't be anything. I didn't even tell my husband," she said.

An MRI revealed triple-negative breast cancer.

It took a year to go through chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy.

"It was very emotional. You just don't know what's gonna happen and I truly had no idea even though I had many patients go through it. I truly had no idea what the experience was gonna be like. So it was, it was a journey. Everything was new to me because I hadn't personally experienced it and quite, quite more than I expected."  

Going through the journey herself brought Marilyn closer to her patients.

Credit: Dr. Marilyn Agee
Dr. Marilyn Agee has attended every Toledo Race for the Cure since 1998.

"A lot of times I would actually be the one to order the mammogram and tell them there was an abnormality, maybe even have the biopsy done. So, many times I had to be the one to tell them that they had a form of breast cancer," she said.  

"I can feel some sympathy, empathy, compassion and a shared experience. I know everybody's experience is unique, so I can't tell them exactly what they're gonna be going through or feel but I make myself available that they can reach out if they want and ask questions or just talk and I shared my wig, even, with a patient, glad to be done with that," she said, laughing.

One friend, in particular, helped Marilyn along her way.

Jane Wurth nominated "Lindy," as she calls her, for this honor.

Credit: Dr. Marilyn Agee
Dr. Agee has run the Race in honor of multiple patients going through breast cancer throughout the years.

"I knew she wouldn't be happy when I nominated her. She does not like to be in the limelight. I nominated her not because she has breast cancer, but because she's used so much of her career and her life to treat women with breast cancer and comfort them. I will tell you that on occasion, I went to chemo with her and sat in the room and we walked through the room and she saw her patients in there and she stopped and she held their hands and told them to keep going," Wurth explained.

"She is a doctor that is there for every single one of her patients, particularly women and her breast cancer patients so it's because of her work as a physician and her heart," said Wurth. "She's the one that takes care of everybody else so it was time for us to take care of her and we did. We rallied and when she was done with treatment, we walked in the race together, we had breakfast and we all celebrated, but all of our friends of our neighbors came together and rallied for Lindy."

Credit: Dr. Marilyn Agee
Dr. Marilyn Agee was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012.

"That's the biggest thing. You're gonna get through this, whatever it takes and we're gonna do it together and you're gonna have plenty of support," said Agee. "Hope is the word."

Agee did get a mammogram a few weeks before she found the lump, and that mammogram did not detect her cancer.

But, she says in 90% of cases, mammograms do, so she really wants to stress getting yearly checks even though some organizations say every other year is fine. And get caught up if you missed your mammogram due to the pandemic.

Register for the Toledo Race for the Cure here: Susan G. Komen - Northwest Ohio - 2021 Komen Toledo Race for the Cure (info-komen.org)

RELATED: Race for the Cure FAQ | Findlay & Toledo


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