Our mother and grandmother, Cheryl Lynn Garza, has always been recognized for her sincere, amazingly kind-heartedness and giving personality. Whenever the opportunity arose for her to help in some way, she always has. We have had people tell us more than once that our mother is a “true angel.”
Cheryl was born May 1, 1947, a May Day baby, to her parents Bob and Adra Brown. She was the first of four children. She attended school in Sidney and graduated from Sidney High School in May 1965.
Cheryl married Troy Garza on Aug. 20, 1966, and had two children. Robert “Rob” was born Nov. 28, 1966, and Tracie was born March 13, 1971.
Cheryl spent her time working at Gurney Electric while raising her two children. She is a grandmother to four: Megan, Shanan, Kyle and Sydney. Her love for her children and grandchildren is beyond words. She was meant to be a mom and grandma.
Along with being an astounding family woman, Cheryl is a very successful entrepreneur.
Cheryl opened The Rush, an espresso drive-through, in November 1997, with the help of her family. Cheryl’s daughter, Tracie, and father, Bob, worked with her every day.
It is so much more than a business; it is a way of life for everyone in the family. But of course there are things besides working that Cheryl enjoys doing.
Cheryl’s favorite things are anything that has to do with her family. She lived with her father after her mother, Adra, passed away in 1982. Every evening she made dinner for him along with her daughter Tracie’s family. In the summer, her grandchildren from Billings, Kyle and Sydney, make several trips to Sidney to stay with her. Cheryl has gone on every family vacation with her children’s families over the years. She has visited Colorado, California, Florida, Mexico, Idaho, and this fall New York City.
Along with spending time with her family, Cheryl enjoys garage-saleing, baking and cooking and playing games on Facebook. She is a Mountain Dew addict and a “Twilight Junkie”. All of these things define our mom and grandma.
Sept. 14, 2011 was a tragic day our family will never forget. Cheryl went to the emergency room and was told it was highly likely she had advanced breast cancer. Cheryl did not go to the doctor on a regular basis and for various reason, chose to ignore some physical symptoms that she was experiencing for at least a couple of months.
When Cheryl, accompanied by Tracie, went to the emergency room, Jacquelyn Free examined her. Free was very concerned, but could not do a biopsy that day as Cheryl had taken aspirin, a blood thinner. Our family had to wait seven days to find out the severity of her cancer, which felt like an eternity to us. We had many moments of crying, regret, and wishing things were different.
She had the biopsy of her breast at Sidney Health Center and was told she had stage four mestatic breast cancer.
At this point, she was referred to an oncologist, Dr. Neiva at the Billings Clinic.
When she went to her first appointment, Dr. Neiva said the cancer was stage three or four, stage three if the cancer was contained and stage four if it had spread. In order to determine if cancer had spread to various regions of the body, a Petscan was ordered.
Cheryl did not have any health insurance, and therefore was unable to receive a Petscan immediately. She was waiting until her 65th birthday in May, hoping to sign up for Medicare. Dr. Neiva told us we could reach close to the same conclusions with extensive X-rays so the family agreed on that.
The X-rays showed a large lesion on her lumbar spine and also on the pelvic bone. The doctors called to tell the family this and told us she would need another biopsy, this time of her pelvic bone. The doctor told us we could tell her that night what she was up against or wait till the morning when she returned for the biopsy. We didn’t know what to do, but eventually we told her because none of us could handle hiding it.
This is when it all become so real. I don’t think any of us slept. We all cried until we couldn’t cry anymore. The next morning she went in for the biopsy, and it was confirmed: the cancer had spread.
Cheryl’s oncologist, Dr. Neiva, talked about sending her home and treating her for “quality” of life instead of fighting it.
Cheryl wanted to fight this and so did we. The family asked if she could receive the chemotherapy no matter what it took.
The next obstacle was chemotherapy. The treatments were very expensive and had to be paid for in advance
Her sister, Sandy Johnson, did some checking and was able to get her signed up with a high-risk health insurance plan, which we were entirely thankful for. The Billings Clinic did a great job leading us in a direction.
Cheryl received her first chemotherapy treatment on Oct. 7, 2011.
Cheryl was receiving the strongest regimen of chemotherapy possible. Her treatments typically took four hours and had a treatment every 21 days, six treatments total. She had her first treatment in Billings, then came back to Sidney for her treatments as she lived with her 88-year-old father, and had a business and other responsibilities in Sidney.
She cannot say enough good things about her chemo nurses, Rhonda Conlin and Judy Carda, at the Sidney Cancer Center. She is so grateful and was so impressed with the care she was given.
I (Tracie) remember telling mom, “I wish it was me instead of you.” Her reply was “No, I wouldn’t want that.”
The chemotherapy was given prior to a mastectomy because the tumor had attached itself to her chest wall. In order for them to remove the tumor, it needed to shrink and begin separating from the chest wall.
She began to get more ill after each chemo treatment.
Things you do not think play a big part in your every day life, do. She lost her eyelashes, which caused her eyes to water horribly. She lost her nose hair, which caused her nose to run all the time. She was horribly fatigued. I do not believe any of us know how miserable she was because she wanted to stay strong for us.
Bob was very protective of her and watched her every day. When she went into her bedroom to sleep, he would sit on his recliner in the living room and watch her bedroom door, waiting for her to come out. He would make her Cream of Wheat and pudding, or the occasional egg. We kept her inside most of the time so she wouldn’t get sick with the flu, catch a cold, etc.
Most of all, Cheryl was determined to live.
Cheryl received her last treatment Jan. 23, 2012. Her infusion nurses, Rhonda helped Judy, and herself celebrated this monumental moment with sparkling juice, and she received a special quilt.
Cheryl had another obstacle in March, when she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Her heart was only pumping 35 percent, compared to a healthy heart at 55-65 percent.
She was beginning to feel defeated by cancer, I believe. She had also lost a lot of mobility in her left arm and hand, from the tumor, infected lymph nodes and chemotherapy. At this point, the doctors began to worry her body would be unable to handle the mastectomy we had been waiting for since September.
The doctors conversed and went through with the surgery on March 7. Along with the removal of the breast, lymph nodes were removed. Cheryl was released from the hospital two days later, another miracle. Her only complaint was that she should have only had to stay one night in the hospital, not two.
On June 5, Cheryl was devastated again. Almost nine months to the day of her cancer diagnosis, she took her father whom had become such a large part of her life to have a laparoscopic hernia removal. When the doctors ended up going in, they ironically found he had inoperable cancer. He was given two months to live. She told him, “I will take care of you the way you took care of me.”
She never left his bedside. She would giggle with him about her hair growing in and tell him all about the days at The Rush.
Sadly, he passed away after his 89th birthday, June 14, 2012, five days after we took him home.
It has been 11 months since Cheryl’s diagnosis. We took her to her cardiologist in August and her first good news was given. Her heart completely repaired itself. She will continue taking blood pressure pills and needs to watch her salt intake, but she was able to remove the diuretics from her routine.
Cheryl went to see her oncologist Aug. 15., and her second round of good news was given. She is in remission of her breast cancer.
No one in the family ever believed this day would come and neither did she.
Cheryl will still receive her bone therapy once a month for three years and will continue her hormonal pill treatment forever. When the doctors made references to her still being here in 10 years, we were simply amazed. The emotions were running wild in the room. Thirdly, her hand has slowly begun to regain some movement. She will begin physical therapy this month to keep working on this.
We are truly blessed. Cheryl is back out at The Rush, and it’s mind-blowing to think what has happened these past 11 months.
Miracles happen and prayer works. She is living proof. She was on many prayer chains. A group of women got together and began taking a meal into the house whenever she needed.
These acts of kindness relieved stress for her as she worried a great deal about her father having his supper. These people will never be forgotten.
Cancer does not have to be a death sentence. Don’t give up. Her attitude, the power of prayer, support of family, friends and the community played a part in this miracle.
I still have people tell me, “Your mom is an angel.”