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Three-time survivor: “If cancer has any common sense, it would leave me alone”

Mae Goodridge beat esophageal cancer in 2004, breast cancer in 2007 and lung cancer in 2014.
Mae Goodridge, 75, is still water-skiing in part because of the care she received through University of Minnesota Cancer Care.

You can’t keep Mae Goodridge down.

The 75-year-old Princeton, Minn., resident beat esophageal cancer after her diagnosis in 2004, only to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and then lung cancer in 2014.

Mae fought the cancers with spirit and determination. She treated each like a mere bump in the road—no different than the ones she encountered on the open highways during her career as a semi-truck driver.

Still, Mae’s first diagnosis for esophageal cancer came as a shock. But she quickly found comfort in her University of Minnesota Health Cancer Care team.

“I knew I had the best care at the University. I really did not deal with any fear,” Mae said.

Three-time survivor
Mae’s esophageal cancer was caught early, after Mae’s primary care physician, Roger Boettcher, MD, referred her to another physician for an exam and biopsy after becoming concerned by some of Mae’s physical symptoms. The investigation found a tumor located midway down her esophagus. Mae took six months to recover from surgery, which removed the cancer, along with her esophagus. Her treatment was completed under the care of former University of Minnesota Health Thoracic Surgeon Michael Maddaus, MD.

The second cancer diagnosis brought less shock and more anger.

“I guess it was better to be angry than scared,” Mae reflected.

Caught early, her breast cancer barely registered as Stage I. Mae went through radiation and four rounds of chemotherapy with an oncologist in Coon Rapids; with that, the cancer was gone.

Five years later, she was hospitalized for pneumonia related to the acid reflux she experienced after having her esophagus removed. Upon her discharge, she traveled to California for Christmas. While there, Mae continued to experience difficulty breathing. She knew something was off.

By this time, Mae’s husband had lost his own battle with lung cancer. Her husband passed away in 2000 after a battle with lung cancer. Because of her experience caring for her late husband’s, Mae was able to predict what her primary caretaker was going to tell her: She, too, had lung cancer.

“I did a lot of praying and went through some anxiety,” she said. But her positive attitude and humor helped her look forward. Once again, Mae traveled to University of Minnesota Medical Center, where she was treated by Thoracic Surgeon Rafael Andrade, MD.

Learn more about our thoracic surgery team.

“I totally, totally loved him,” Goodridge said. “He is magnificent. I can’t even tell you how much I think of him and all the nurses.”

Fortunately, Mae’s lung cancer hadn’t spread far. Andrade removed the cancerous nodule, the right lower lobe of one of Mae’s lungs and a portion of her stomach layering in March 2014.

Not ready to ‘stay at home in a rocking chair’
Despite three separate bouts with cancer, Mae hasn’t slowed down. She remains active by water skiing and downhill skiing. She traveled to Breckenridge, Colo., to ski after her lung cancer surgery.

“I had to use the inhalers a couple times going down the hill,” she said, laughing. “If you get hurt, you get hurt. If you’re going to worry about it, stay home in a rocking chair. I’m not ready for that.”

Even before the Breckinridge trip, she went on water-ski outings behind her boat. Andrade and her care team were astounded, and requested photographic evidence of her activities.

“Of course I sent them a picture,” she said. “They were pretty tickled.”

Learn more about our University of Minnesota Cancer Care services.

Goodridge says she got through a decade of health challenges thanks to the support of her friends and family, and by having faith in her doctors, her body and God. She’d offer the same advice for others facing cancer.

Goodridge also credits self-awareness of her body for leading to early diagnoses of each cancer threat. If something feels off, she said, it’s best to get it checked out in case it is something more severe.

“I’m grateful for every day,” she said. “I don’t fear having another bout with cancer. If cancer has any common sense it would leave me alone.”