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The American Cancer Society has decided to do something a little different this year for its Day at the Ballpark by choosing nine cancer survivors for the Survivor Starting Lineup.

With only nine being chosen from Illinois and Missouri the competition was steep, but Sue Mitchell's story was just as special to them as she is to the community of Fredericktown.

Mitchell was chosen for third base in the lineup and was treated to a day of fun at the park along with the other eight winners and their guests.

"It felt cool, really cool," Mitchell said. "The highlight was watching a cancer survivor (one of the other winners) meet his favorite baseball player (Kolten Wong). Seeing that young man's face, in a wheel chair, just glow and how Kolten Wong interacted with him was just amazing."

Mitchell said everywhere they went they were greeted and people would clap making her feel very welcomed.

In order to be selected Mitchell was first nominated and then she had to write a biography of herself and her cancer journey.

Mitchell's journey with cancer began in 2015 when she received the news she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma or breast cancer. After three surgeries, chemo and radiation the doctors had believed they had removed it all. 

"Afterwards I kept feeling bad, and my hips and back would hurt," Mitchell said. "They found I had a bulging disk and decided that before they did the surgery they would go in and drill into the bone. That was when they found out it (cancer) was in the bones."

Mitchell said that was the moment in 2016 when she found out she would be living with metastic breast cancer, meaning the cancer had spread to her bones. 

"During my journey through cancer, I have received help from American Cancer Society by participating in several programs," Mitchell said. "I had a counselor assigned to me and they are trained by the American Cancer Society and they assign you to someone who has had the same kind of cancer. My papers in my bag from Southeast (Cancer Center) had all that. They just bend over backwards for you."

Mitchell said she encourages anyone diagnosed to register with the American Cancer Society, because they can not come to you it is something you have to sign up for. 

After Mitchell and the rest of the lineup took their tour around Busch Stadium, saw the dugouts, took photos and met with Kolten Wong, it was time to watch the game later that evening.

Due to a storm coming through the area they sought shelter inside to wait out the storm. Mitchell noticed two empty chairs at a table and kindly asked the gentleman if her and her guest could join them. 

Mitchell said after she joined the table she thanked him and told him how she has difficulty standing on concrete for long periods because of her cancer. She said the man then asked her where she went for her treatments and looked intrigued when she said Southeast Cancer Center in Cape.

"I've got the best doctor ever," Mitchell said. "When you walk in that cancer center the people that greet you at your car, and park your car, and yell at you if you do not use your service, they know you by name. Then you walk into the reception and they all know you, but I have been there for a while. The first six months it was nothing for a staff member to come sit by me and just talk. It was awesome I wouldn’t trade it."

Mitchell said she gives her doctors, the nurses and all the staff at Southeast the highest honors.

"I would not trade it (Southeast Cancer Center) for anything," Mitchell said. 

After Mitchell raved about how happy she was with the care at Southeast Cancer Center, she discovered more about the gentleman and it was revealed his uncle was a key player in getting the cancer center at Southeast opened.

"He said 'my uncle was 100 percent involved in getting the cancer center,'" Mitchell said. "It was cool. It's just weird how things happen. I just wish I had gotten his name."

Mitchell said the whole day was just cool and full of excitement.

For now Mitchell is full of life and spends as many moments as she can fighting for a cure. Whether it be through volunteering with Relay for Life for the past 19 years or getting involved with American Cancer Society she takes every chance to help the cause.

Before Mitchell had the mass removed from her breast, she even used the opportunity to teach other women what they are looking for.

"I had a fitness class at the gym for women, and I let each woman in the class feel for the mass so they would know how to," Mitchell said. "I also did that at a relay meeting."

Mitchell said the mass was large and many had difficulty finding it. She said the experience taught them all what to look for and the proper way to check.

"My advice would be don’t count the days, make the days count," Mitchell said. "You might go out there and fall over today. We don’t know. We have the same amount of time that everyone else does, because nobody knows."

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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