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Minnesota National Guard
In Cancer Fight, Yankton Native Gets Support Of Minn. Guard

Minnesota National Guard By Rob Nielsenrobnielsen@yanktoncom | 0 comments

When the Minnesota Army National Guard asked Yankton native Sgt Cassie Mecuk to be a part of the launch of the Pink Tank Project, she was more than happy to oblige

"I jumped on board with it because it is just such a cool initiative that the Guard is doing," Mecuk said "It links me to my brothers and sisters through the one thing that makes me different than them"

Mecuk is the granddaughter of current Yankton resident Ruth Heatherly

That difference is the fact that Mecuk, 28, has been diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time in four years and is currently undergoing chemotherapy This time, she said the disease is spreading

"As grim as it sounds, we celebrate when it shows the chemo is diminishing tumors and prepare for spreading and new tumors to be popping up in alternate locations," she said

The Pink Tank Project was an initiative started by the Minnesota Army National Guard as a means of educating women on the dangers of breast cancer and to serve as a monthly reminder for those who sign up on their Facebook page to perform their monthly exams It'll also serve as a vehicle to get out the word on new breakthroughs and initiatives in fighting breast cancer

Mecuk, who is still active duty but unable to be deployed, said the program has been a motivation to her

"I know I can't deploy anymore and things like that are gone," she said "But this project made me feel connected again"
Mecuk has been in the Guard for nine years, having moved to Minnesota in 1999

She said even in the short time the program has been enacted, other Guard units have shown interest outside of Minnesota

"I see it becoming a national initiative because other states are starting to get a hold of what we're doing," she said

She was unsure of exactly which states had been in contact with the Minnesota Army National Guard or if any others had started their own initiatives

One of the main goals of the project, Mecuk said, is to make soldiers more aware of the potential that they may develop breast cancer

"There's a stigma that this won't happen," she said "We're tough soldiers, so we think that we're invincible, but we're no different than anybody else and these things are very real If we don't take care of them, we're not very effective so this is a good reminder"

In addition to educating troops, she added she's happy to see young women are joining the initiative

"It's so cool because I'm noticing with the Pink Tank Project that so many younger women are starting to think about these things," she said "If I can share my story about being diagnosed for the first time when I was 24, that just gets in younger women's heads to start doing a monthly self breast exam, then I have served a purpose to put the idea in their heads We don't think about these things when we're young Mammograms don't start until age 40, but if there's a connection, we make it more real to them that this actually happens to younger women, they're more likely to take care of themselves"

Cassie said in addition to inspiring others to get routine exams, she also wants her story to inspire others to live their lives to their fullest potential

"I just want people to slow down and enjoy life," she said "Going through this for the third time, I'm learning where my priorities are Maybe it's not as important to stay at work an extra hour, maybe it's more important to take a family out to dinner or not miss a kid's sporting event It's all about reprioritizing Time is a scary thing and we're all on borrowed time, so if people can start reprioritizing and get their focus where it should be, I think that would be a good take away"

To see Cassie's story, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4RtzKHGjCE
For more information on the Pink Tank Project, visit http://www.minnesotanationalguard.org/pinktank/
To follow the Pink Tank Project, visit https://www.facebook.com/PinkTankProject/

You can follow Rob Nielsen on Twitter at twitter.com/RobNielsenPandD/ Discuss this story at wwwyanktonnet/

Posted: Sunday, October 20, 2013 10:15 pm | Updated: 11:14 pm, Mon Oct 21, 2013

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