SHREVEPORT, La. - Exercising and even working in health care doesn't give you breast cancer immunity as registered nurse Geraldine Schaefer found out.
She received chemo and radiation for an aggressive form of cancer. The hardest part was losing the strength to do what she loves.
"I thought I would never be able to run again. And I was sad about that because it was such a big part of my daily routine," said the 48-year-old works at Christus Health in Shreveport.
"More than the loss of my hair, more than the loss of my eye lashes and eyebrows, what I wept about was when I lost my strength and my stamina," said Shaefer, who runs five days a week.
She started running about eight years ago, competing in 5Ks, 10Ks and half-marathons until cancer slowed her down.
"Because the first time I ran after chemo I couldn't even run a half a mile," Schaefer said.
But not everyone experiences fatigue.
"It never ceases to amaze me how unique every single one of us are with the exact same treatment," said Dr. Scott Boniol, a Christus Health oncologist.
A four-month chemo regimen was prescribed.
"Dr. Chintapali said, 'Geraldine, you are going to run and we are going to get you there,'" Schaefer said.
It's not only important to treat the cancer, but to treat the patient as an individual.
"How you treat people with the chemo is what matters and makes the difference," said Boniol, adding that's one of the things that Christus Health prides itself on.
Six months after her chemo treatment ended, Schaefer was back in the race competing in the Warrior Run.
"People that exercise through therapy do better. And people who exercise after therapy continue to improve and do better and have a lower incident of recurrent disease in the long run," Schaefer said.
"I think maybe there was a small part of me that took it for granted. And so now I'm more grateful to be able to do what I do. Fast forward 3 years later I'm back to doing the things I love to do," said Schaefer, who received her last chemo treatment in October 2016.
She's back to work full-time at Christus Health. And when she's not running, she's in the gym, going hard in spin class.
"There is life after chemo. It's going to suck, for lack of a better word," Schaefer said.
With breast cancer behind her, Schaefer is training to compete in her first full marathon in January.
"You only get one body in this lifetime. Get screened and take care of yourself. Someday, I have faith that we will all call ourselves survivors," Schaefer said.