The day after Peggy Scott was diagnosed with breast cancer, her mother had a stroke. While she was out of-state tending to her mom that weekend, her husband had a gallbladder attack and ended up in the hospital for nine days.
For a family who loves spending time outdoors on their 20 acres filled with hilly pasture, peaceful creeks, howling coyotes, horses, dogs, barn cats and 100-year-old oak trees, they spent too much time inside the hospital the month of April 2007.
“It was a pretty crazy, pretty wild time,” Dean Scott recalls four years later. “But Peggy really handled the whole breast cancer battle with a lot of grace.”
During her treatment, Peggy Scott went back to work as usual as a Physical Therapist at Methodist Hospital in Des Moines. Not only does she work with many cancer patients, she was one of three women on the staff at the time battling breast cancer. There was an immediate bond. They experienced going bald together. They even traded wigs. Sadly, one of the women in the trio ended up dying while wearing Peggy’s fake head of hair.
“It’s always scary even if you know a lot about it,” said Scott.
The Scotts are a family of faith and values. Peggy seems serene much of the time and has a contagious calming effect. Dean, who ropes horses, says his kids think he’s opinionated and narrow-minded, but ‘strong in his beliefs’ would be the nicer way to put it.
When Peggy found out the news of her cancer, what to do next was obvious. She went to the car with her husband and prayed. Then she went back to work and continued seeing patients.
“What do I do? Sit there and think about it?” she questioned.
When their 18-year-old daughter Ellen unveiled a pink ribbon breast cancer tattoo on her foot with her mother’s initials on it, what to do next was not as clear.
Since Dean had made his oldest son Will wear t-shirts in the swimming pool at family gatherings to hide his ink, surely Ellen knew her tribute to her mother would be met with mixed emotion.
It’s still a sore subject for the family, and two weeks worth of phone calls to Ellen in pursuit of her comments went unreturned.
Although she is torn between support for her husband and appreciation for her daughter’s gesture, Peggy Scott says it’s not the end of the world, and neither is her breast cancer for that matter either. She’s healthy. She’s happy. She’s hiking to Mount Everest this month with a group of fellow cancer survivors.
Although there certainly have been the tough times, like the elective mastectomy in 2009, cancer has had its positive effects on Peggy Scott as it does on many who go through the illness.
“I hold my husband longer when I hug him,” she said. “And I tell my kids I love them more.”
The life lessons remain though the disease has come and gone. Peggy Scott believes that when she does eventually pass away, she’ll die of something else.
The Scotts have learned to handle issues of all shapes and sizes – things like gallbladder attacks and breast cancer. And the permanent ones, too.