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Bandit faces cancer, supports community

Laura Markuly, 349th Air Refueling Squadron administration assistant, holds a poster showing her progression during her chemotherapy treatment, in Wichita, Kan. Markuly educates others on how to live healthier through her Facebook page and blog where she shares exercises and nutritional facts. (Courtesy photo)

Laura Markuly, 349th Air Refueling Squadron administration assistant, holds a poster showing her progression during her chemotherapy treatment, in Wichita, Kan. Markuly educates others on how to live healthier through her Facebook page and blog where she shares exercises and nutritional facts. (Courtesy photo)

Laura Markuly, 349th Air Refueling Squadron administration assistant, speaks to an audience about her experience with breast cancer, April 21, 2016, at Cheney, Kan.  Markuly’s positive outlook and determination has helped her overcome the difficulties of breast cancer, and now she strives to support others during their hardships. (Courtesy photo)

Laura Markuly, 349th Air Refueling Squadron administration assistant, speaks to an audience about her experience with breast cancer, April 21, 2016, at Cheney, Kan. Markuly’s positive outlook and determination has helped her overcome the difficulties of breast cancer, and now she strives to support others during their hardships. (Courtesy photo)

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- Cancer can be a devastating beast. For one member of Team McConnell, she managed to get the upper hand and continues to live her life with a positive outlook while helping others.

Laura Markuly, 349th Air Refueling Squadron administration assistant, discovered a lump April 2, 2015. Shortly after her doctor confirmed she had stage-three breast cancer.

Markuly said the most frightening thing about the ordeal was the unknown factor. It came out of nowhere. There wasn't a family history of cancer. Being an exercise physiologist, she ate well and exercised often.

She asked herself, "What am I going to have to change? How is this going to hinder me?"

Two months later, through surgery, the lump and 12 lymph nodes were removed; the cancer had spread to two sentinel lymph nodes, but appeared to not have spread further.

Her family, friends and co-workers were there for her during her difficult time.

"My mother and a tight group of individuals I worked with from the 22nd Medical Group were my support," said Markuly.

"She came to me devastated," said Tresa Friesen, 931st Air Refueling Wing finance office budget analyst. "From then on, I thought of how to help with whatever she needed, how I could be there for her."

Whether it was with jokes, lifting heavy dog food bags to feed her two Labrador Retrievers or bringing back childhood memories, her friends and family were always there to lend a hand or lighten the mood.

Markuly said she got her positivity from her parents. Her mom always told her, "you control your attitude." This was one of those times she said she really had to suck it up.

"She not only had a positive attitude about her own recovery, but she provided a positive attitude for other people to overcome their problems," said Friesen. "She is a strong woman."

Markuly always manages to find the positive in a situation and magnify it, mentioned Friesen, her friend of 15 years.

"I have learned that a good attitude is an absolute must going through this," said Markuly. "I could have chosen to be miserable but I chose to turn this into a positive. I took this as an opportunity to educate others and be some sort of support system. I have an open Facebook page and started my own blog where I have exercise videos and nutritional facts. The more I can help and spread the word, that is satisfaction to me. It has been therapeutic."

She also held a public speaking event at a library in Cheney, Kansas, her hometown, about her recovery. The participants have requested a follow-up series where she will most likely instruct an exercise class.

"The exercise is more for prevention," said Markuly. "It seems like cancer has become such an epidemic. Within the last year, I have had friends that are my age, that are fit and without a hereditary background of cancer and they are being diagnosed with it. I want to find the reason why and if there is anything else we can do to prevent it."

Being an athlete and exercising has always been a large part of her life, which helped her thrive.

"My dad was my coach, being an athlete really pulled me through," said Markuly. "To have the determination to not let anything bring me down. Even [through the hardest times], I was trying to get on the treadmill while in the middle of chemo. During my second series of chemo, I went back to spin class."

Markuly's is currently in remission and will know for sure whether or not the cancer is completely gone in five years. Her positive outlook and determination has helped her overcome the difficulties of breast cancer, and now she strives to support others during their hardships.

"Nobody is immune to cancer," Markuly said. "You can take care of yourself, but you still need to be aware of your body. Your support system is going to be your greatest asset with daily life."