ELK RAPIDS — Jami Gray and Judy Husby's battles with breast cancer are long past, yet they continue to fight, not for themselves, but for other women.
They fight for women who may someday find themselves on the wrong end of a grim diagnosis, a diagnosis both women faced once together. They empathize with women who will one day walk into a room full of doctors who will deliver a potential death sentence.
The women who founded the ABC Challenge Walk, a fundraiser that gives money to an organization that pays for breast exams for women with little or no insurance, know what it is like to be in the fight of their lives.
It's been 1,646 days since Husby was told she had breast cancer. And she was the second shoe to drop in the small, tight-knit community of Elk Rapids.
Husby spent the two weeks before her diagnosis trying to support her friend and fellow school teacher, Gray, cope with her own cancer diagnosis. Like many women, Husby had, for years, treated her annual trips for a mammogram similar to a routine trip to the dentist.
She had good insurance that paid for the exams, she was lucky, she said.
Her mother had fought and won a battle with breast cancer years before, so she knew she was at higher risk for developing tumors, but her thoughts were more for the welfare of her friend the day she went to the hospital for a checkup.
"The hardest part for me was my family, my two kids," Husby said. "Making that phone call was very difficult."
Her children lost their father, her first husband, to pancreatic cancer when he was in his mid-40s.
"It sank in when I started making those phone calls," she said. Husby still chokes back tears when she remembers the conversation she had with her daughter.