She understands what it’s like to have no hair, no eyebrows and no eyelashes. She still remembers walking down the street and seeing people, whom she had known for years, who no longer recognized her.
In honor of Sherri Flannigan’s 10-year anniversary as a breast cancer survivor, she’s having a party, “Celebrating the Gift of Life.”
Flannigan, a 27-year Isanti resident, is hosting an Enchanted Masquerade Ball from 7 p.m. to midnight Saturday, Oct. 5, at American Jane’s Grill & Bar in Cambridge. All are welcome to attend, with proceeds benefiting the Beautiful You program offered through the Harbor Room Cancer Resource Center at Cambridge Medical Center.
The event costs $30 per person and will feature hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, photographs, local entertainment from 7-9 p.m. and a disc jockey from 9 p.m. to midnight. A cash bar will also be available.
Attendees are welcome to dress in semiformal to formal attire or in costumes. There will be a prize for best costume. Breast cancer survivors will also receive a special gift.
“In August, I celebrated my 10-year anniversary as a breast cancer survivor, and I wanted to do something special to celebrate that occasion,” Flannigan said. “In talking with my family and friends, we came up with the idea of a masquerade ball. We decided to donate all the proceeds to the Beautiful You program at the Harbor Room since I’ve been involved with the program since its inception eight years ago. This program donates hats, scarves and a makeup kit to those going through cancer. I know what it’s like to have no hair, no eyebrows and no eyelashes. I know what it’s like to hear, ‘I’m so sorry, you have breast cancer.’ I help with the Beautiful You program as often as I can because I truly understand what these women are going through and want to offer support.”
The Beautiful You program is generally held the second Tuesday of every month from 6:30-8 p.m. for women undergoing cancer treatment or those who have completed treatment within the past six months. The women receive a free Mary Kay makeup kit and supplies valued at approximately $200, plus tips on makeup application techniques, as well as options for dealing with hair loss. They can also select a wig and try on hats and scarves in a safe environment. For more information on the Beautiful You program, call 763-688-8415.
“The fact that Sherri is choosing to donate her funds from her masquerade ball to Harbor Room’s Beautiful You program is amazing,” said Bonnie Gutzkow-Bowman, director of the Harbor Room Cancer Resource Center. “She has seen firsthand the difference this program has made in the lives of many women in the area. I hope many people will attend this masquerade ball and show your support for Sherri’s 10-year breast cancer survivorship, while also helping women with cancer to feel beautiful.”
Flannigan was diagnosed with breast cancer Aug. 18, 2003, by doctors at the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute in the Twin Cities. She was referred there after feeling a lump in her breast; however, early indications showed it was a cyst.
“When I left the hospital, they told me they thought it was a cyst and there was only a small chance it was breast cancer,” Flannigan said. “I got a call on Monday, Aug. 18, at 4:50 p.m. telling me it was breast cancer. I was just in shock. My husband was at work, so I called some good friends who came and stayed with me until he got home.”
Following the diagnosis, Flannigan, who had just turned 40, underwent three surgeries in 13 days. She then got a bad infection and was hospitalized for a week, delaying her chemotherapy treatment.
She started chemotherapy in October and ended up with a severe reaction to those treatments, leading to nerve damage in her feet. She then started 28 sessions of radiation at Unity Hospital, finishing her radiation treatments in April.
Flannigan said it was the support of her family, friends and co-workers at John Hirsch’s Cambridge Motors who got her through the trying times.
“I tried to stay strong and only missed work when I was in the hospital or had to leave for treatments,” Flannigan said. “Going through breast cancer really made me appreciate what I have positive in my life and makes you realize those little things really don’t matter.”
Flannigan still goes in for routine checkups, and so far the cancer hasn’t reoccurred.
“I’m not on any medications now, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about reoccurrence — cancer is really never gone,” Flannigan said. “I know people who have been cancer-free for 10, 15 years, and then it reoccurs.”
In honor of her five-year anniversary as a breast cancer survivor, Flannigan participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, which is a 60-mile walk done during the course of three days that raises funds for national research and large public health outreach programs.
“That was the hardest physical thing I have ever gone through, but it was a truly rewarding experience,” Flannigan said.
Even though Flannigan describes herself as a positive person with the glass always “half full,” she admitted the diagnosis changed her.
“Every day is a gift, and I don’t take anything for granted,” Flannigan said. “I enjoy my life to the fullest, and I’m blessed with a wonderful husband, two children, family and friends. Going through breast cancer made me realize who my true friends are, and I only surround myself with positive influences. Life is good.”
Flannigan is grateful for the work of the benefit committee, consisting of six to seven people, including her daughter and son, as well as co-worker Sue Slater and Brianna Satterlee, who are also involved with the Harbor Room.
Tickets for the Enchanted Masquerade Ball must be purchased by Saturday, Sept. 28. Tickets can be purchased by mailing a check payable to Cambridge Medical Center Foundation with “Masquerade Ball Tickets” written in the memo, and mailed to Enchanted Masquerade Ball, c/o Sherri Flannigan, P.O. Box 147, Isanti, MN 55040.
Tickets can also be purchased at John Hirsch’s Cambridge Motors front desk from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday by asking for Sherri Flannigan or Sue Slater.
The Harbor Room Cancer Resource Center in the Cambridge Medical Center also has tickets, but hours vary. Call 763-688-8415 prior to stopping by to purchase tickets. Tickets can also be purchased by calling Sherri Flannigan at 612-221-5497.
Flannigan said the support from the business community has been amazing. Businesses looking to make a financial contribution to the benefit will be mentioned as a sponsor at the event. Financial donations can be handled the same way as purchasing tickets; however, write “Masquerade Ball Sponsor” in the memo of the check.
American Jane’s Grill & Bar (former Cambridge American Legion) is located at 200 Second Ave. E., Cambridge. More information on the benefit can be found at https://www.facebook.com/MasqueradeBallBenefit.