A Family Affair



Mother and daughter fighting cancer at Roger Maris Cancer Center

It has been a busy holiday in the Ullrich household. The family gathered in Dilworth, Minn., at daughter Becky’s house for a Christmas celebration. There were presents to open, sweet treats to eat and lots to be thankful for. But one thing is different this year. While most families spent the day after Christmas eating leftovers and picking up wrapping paper, 60-year-old Peggy Ullrich spent part of the day receiving treatment for breast cancer.

Peggy was diagnosed on Sept. 10th after a lump was discovered on her breast.

“I was just so shocked when I heard that it was breast cancer,” remembers Peggy.

But sadly, that wasn’t the only shock Peggy would experience that week. The next day her 36-year-old daughter Becky Kaiser was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Becky was pregnant with her second child when Sanford Fargo OB/GYN Christina Tinguely, MD, noticed something on her ultrasound.

“There were two small ovarian cysts,” remembers Dr. Tinguely. “It wasn’t overly concerning so we just decided to monitor them. And they never grew throughout her pregnancy.”

Once Becky delivered a healthy baby girl, she returned to Sanford Fargo for a six-week postpartum check-up.

“Dr. Tinguely just wanted to see if they had gone away on their own,” recalls Becky. “But they were still there and she just didn’t like the looks of them. So I had a very simple surgery to get them removed, and I kind of thought that would be the end of it.”

However a call a few days later changed Becky’s life.

“I knew that something wasn’t right when Dr. Tinguely asked me to come to her office,” says Becky. “But I was not expecting cancer.”

Five days later, Becky received a hysterectomy at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D. Now both faced with a cancer diagnosis and months of treatment, mother and daughter stuck together, often times sharing rooms side-by-side in the hospital.

“I could hear her in the next room talking to her nurses,” says Becky. “My husband and sister would walk back and forth visiting each of us. It was scary but comforting to have a room full of family rooting you on and encouraging you.”

Both women are still receiving treatment, but thanks to early detection and an aggressive approach, their prognosis is good.

“I’ve always gone in for my yearly exams,” says Peggy. “And my cancer was discovered during my regular mammogram.”

“I truly credit Dr. Tinguely with saving my life,” states Becky. “I just don’t know if anybody else would have caught something like this so soon. She was just so on top of things.”

“It’s usually so late stage when we find ovarian cancer,” says Dr. Tinguely. “It is basically a miracle that we caught it when we did.”

The mother daughter pair also credits the Roger Maris Cancer Center for taking care of them when they needed it most.

“We are so fortunate in having a place like this in our backyard,” says Becky. “You meet people in the waiting room who have to travel hours and hours and for us it is just a trip across town.”

“You really receive top care there,” adds Peggy. “Every one of the nurses and doctors were just wonderful people, and you really felt comfortable around them. I could call them up and ask them anything.”

“The whole family is just incredibly positive,” says Dr. Tinguely. “To have something so devastating happen to them and still be so upbeat, they are just wonderful people.”

And while the cancer journey isn’t yet over for these two women, they look forward to the day when it is just a memory.

“We are just ready to put this in the past,” says Becky. “It will be something that we can look back on and remember how we made it through together.”

Posted Date: February 2014

A Family Affair

Peggy Ullrich was diagnosed with breast cancer one day before her daughter Becky Kaiser was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This mother daughter pair is now battling cancer together at the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo, N.D.