Wendy Thrush – Ambassador for Breast Cancer, Hope & Life
The fear became painfully real when eye-to-eye with her doctor as he read her pathology report and uttered the word cancer. Each second that passed in between his short breaths transported her into the battlefield of the mind, where everything stopped and when this horrifying news mimicked reality. Wendy Thrush, breast cancer survivor and 39-year resident of Santa Clarita, has looked forward to the promise of tomorrow since her diagnosis. “Even in my deepest thoughts and darkest days, there always awaited hope,” she said with a smile.
Wendy, a firm believer that previous trials prepared her for what came next, lost her memory in 2002 after a routine visit to her dermatologist. Unrelated to the cancer, this blank-slate mindset marked the day her husband Matt lost his wife and left their three older children without a mother; but in choosing a positive perspective, she made the most of this opportunity to get know her family and friends again. In December 2008, Wendy was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer despite no family history. The moment she found a lump in her breast during a self-exam in the shower, she knew it was cancer. “Just hearing the word cancer and personalizing it was surreal,” she said, “Your focus becomes that area of your body only.”
From the beginning, her biggest advocates have been Matt and their three kids Brandon, 27; Ryan, 25; and Mariah; 23. Matt has been to every one of Wendy’s appointments, even when the doctors first told her she would not need chemotherapy. Less than two months after her diagnosis, she underwent surgery with lymph node removal; when the biopsy results came back, it showed the tumor was larger than they had expected and required more aggressive treatment. Wendy endured six rounds of chemotherapy and 38 daily sets of radiation that caused a bad rash on her head and a long lasting impact to her immune system. Realizing she wouldn’t be able to wear a wig hiding what had been taking place in her private life, she naturally embraced the truth to be her best self. “She absolutely rocked that bald head,” Matt said as he admired a picture of his wife posing as “Mrs. Clean” for ChemoCouture.
In the midst of her healing, Wendy decided to follow her calling and help Matt financially by introducing healthy snack alternatives with M&W Gourmet Foods. Her love of cooking and baking surfaced even without ever fully retaining her memory and in 2006 she was eager to brand her company as a family snack business with a story. Bald head and all, she applied to festivals and events up and down the coast, finding her niche in local farmers markets and landing a permanent spot at Channel Islands Harbor Farmers Market. In the last four years, Wendy has offered craft service to multiple TV shows and productions providing delicious snacks such as flavored roasted almonds, fresh granola, veggie chips, and dried fruit combinations like pango (pineapple and mango).
Wendy also volunteers for Circle of Hope, a non-profit cancer charity in the Santa Clarita Valley. She was first introduced to founder Colleen Shaffer in 2009 and later became a board member. Now facilitating the Circle of Hope Cancer Community Support Group, Wendy invites men and women into her home who have been diagnosed with cancer or who are struggling with the long-term effects of treatment to “walk in her moccasins” as she put it, offering experience in overcoming her own challenges and inspiring others to live with hope.
Her practice of contagious joy and humility were ever present in her journey to becoming cancer-free while still recovering from autoimmune overlap. As she continues to forge through life daily, Wendy is greatly encouraged by her home bible study and the community. This year she has been training to run the SCV half marathon in November with Matt and her family. “I let cancer know there was no victory to be had over me,” Wendy said, “Victory lies within us all.”