MASON CITY | Diane Nelson never cared much for pink, but that was before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Pink ribbons are the international symbol for breast cancer awareness.

"Pink was never my favorite color," said Nelson, who is 56. "I never ever wore pink. To me now it's part of that saying, 'I survived.'"

The rural Thornton resident was named Honorary Survivor of the annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of North Iowa 5K walk, which is Saturday, Oct. 19, in Mason City's East Park.

Nelson said she will never forget Jan. 31, 2012, the day she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma after a routine mammogram and stereotactic breast biopsy.

Like most people told they have cancer, "I just couldn't believe it," she said.

"It was really hard to put my arms around the fact that I had cancer in my body."

Nelson had no family history of cancer.

She found, however, that she had a lot of support from family and friends and from the health care professionals at the Mercy Center for Breast Health in Mason City.

On her doctor's recommendation, she had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, then radiation treatments to destroy any cancer cells that may have remained after surgery, 30 treatments in all.

Her sister, Denise Jeffrey of Rockford, organized a huge group of family and friends, many of them people Nelson hadn't seen in years, to send her a little package for her to open after each radiation treatment.

A total of 70 "Treats for Treatment" were sent, way more than the 30 that were needed, Nelson said.

Nelson, who is employed at the North Iowa Cooperative at Portland, will continue with five years of follow-up radiation, she said.

When she had completed all 30 radiation treatments, her husband, John, took her for a brief vacation at their mobile home on Leech Lake in Minnesota.

When they returned to their farm home, "the yard was filled with family and friends all dressed in pink," Nelson said. "My husband and children, Carolyn, Teresa and Mark, gave me a Pink Party."

The Making Strides walk, which Nelson attended for the first time in 2012, was uplifting, she said.

"The park was full," she said. "It just really brought home how many people are affected by breast cancer."

Her physician told her that one year could have made a huge difference in her diagnosis and her outcome, she said. Due to her early detection of the cancer, she has a 98 percent chance of being cured.

Her message to other women is to get that mammogram.

"Please," Nelson said, "if you haven't had your annual mammogram, call and make an appointment yet this week and make sure that all the women in your lives get theirs also."

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