By Brooke Pryor
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Heather Farr didn’t want to be a poster child for cancer.
The budding LPGA player, who received her tour card at 20, was on the brink of becoming a household name as she gained ground and notoriety in the golf world. But on July 3, 1989, her plans were derailed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She didn’t want pity, and she went through her treatment in a matter-of-fact way. The former Arizona State University All-American always put on makeup before going anywhere, because in her mind, if you looked better, then you were better.
“That’s who she was. You would have liked her,” her mother, Sharon Farr of Phoenix, said during the AWSM convention’s second morning session, which focused on breast cancer awareness.
Heather Farr died in November 1993. She was 28. Afterward, younger sister Missy Farr-Kaye just wanted to forget about the six-letter word that took her sister’s life.
But four years later, she found herself on the receiving end of a doctor’s bad news. She opted to have a double mastectomy. Then, in 2008, Farr-Kaye, Arizona State’s associate head women’s golf coach, received bad news yet again. The breast cancer was back, and she had to endure two years of chemotherapy and eight weeks of radiation.
During all of this, Sharon Farr was faced with the reality that one daughter succumbed to breast cancer and another was battling the disease. But she didn’t let the daunting situation discourage her.
“If you give up, they might give up,” the mother said. “You can handle it, or you can give up, and I chose to handle it.”
Missy Farr-Kaye said she went through the treatments blindly and did what she had to do one step at a time.
And with the help of Dr. Mark Runfola, her oncology surgeon, she is cancer-free again and taking an antiestrogen drug to help with the treatment.
Runfola shared recommendations to the AWSM group. One in eight American women will deal with breast cancer, and one way to catch the disease early is by having yearly mammograms.
The baseline mammogram should come at 35, he said.
He also recommended finding doctors who will approach a patient as a human and not a set of numbers and test results. He advocated for finding different ways to take the fear out of mammograms.
Though Heather Farr didn’t want to be a poster child for cancer, her story and her family’s story have been inspirational and helpful to women across the country facing different aspects of the disease, Missy Farr-Kaye acknowledges.
“I’m quite a land map of scars,” Missy said. “But I carry them proudly.”