Community supports officer during cancer fight
Shelly Milton received the worst Valentine’s gift of her life this year. After finding a lump on the top of her breast, doctors delivered the news on Feb. 14 that the mom of three had breast cancer.
“It really was devastating,” said Shelly of her diagnosis.
Shelly, her husband Bruce and their three children live in Rosemount. Shelly is employed by the Rosemount Police Department and the Montgomery Police Department. Bruce is a sergeant with the Airport Police Department.
While the diagnosis shook their world, they’ve also learned their part of a community who supports them.
Six months before her diagnosis, Shelly had a mammogram. The results of that test came back clear. Additionally, Shelly said she has no family history of cancer at all much less breast cancer.
Last winter though, Shelly felt a lump on the top of her breast.
“I didn’t really worry about it too much,” said Shelly.
The lump was out of the normal, so she went into the doctor. The doctor recommended a biopsy and the results came back as cancerous.
“It was a complete shock,” said Shelly.
After doing some research, Shelly and Bruce decided it would be best to have both breasts removed. At the time Shelly said it was a difficult decision.
“I cried a lot before. It sounds like such a stupid thing, but when you’re married you wonder how (your husband) will look at you,” said Shelly.
Bruce said his main concern was Shelly’s health.
A supportive nurse helped Shelly gain some perspective.
“I was crying on the day of surgery and the nurse said ‘Oh honey, they’re just boobs’.”
As they continued through the process, Shelly said the focus became clearer.
“The priority is being on this side of the sod,” said Shelly.
Shelly had a 2 centimeter lump in her breast which is a fairly large lump. The mastectomy provided light on the type of cancer and what they were fighting. Shelly said she has grade 3-invasive ductal carcinoma, which is an aggressive form of breast cancer.
Two jagged scars mark where her breast used to be. Shelly plans to undergo reconstructive surgery after she has completed chemo. For now though, she has a bunch of shirts that just don’t fit quite right. It’s just another reality of being a cancer patient.
“It’s one of those things you just don’t think about until you’re living it,” said Shelley.
Shelly and Bruce have three children a 15-year-old daughter Ellen, a 5-year-old son, Bruce, and four-year-old son, Michael. Shelly said her illness has been the toughest on her daughter because she understands what’s going on.
“The boys just seem to think I’m trying to look like dad. The hair thing seems to irritate them,” said Shelly.
While fighting cancer has been hardest the fight of her life Shelly said it’s taught her a lot about life and what matters.
“It’s really been a good thing. It makes you reevaluate everything in your life. Things that seemed important before are not and other things have become important,” said Shelly about cancer.
Specifically, Bruce said their family has received a tremendous amount of support from the law enforcement community.
“Rosemount PD just has been incredible,” said Bruce.
Members of the department have provided meals, other resources and a friendship. In particular, Rosemount Police officer Julie Pulkrabek-Sandell and former Rosemount Police Officer Krista Blair organized a fundraiser to help ease the financial strain. Additionally, during Leprechaun Days officer Jason Waage will pull a fire truck to raise funds for the family.
Lastly, Bruce said former Rosemount Police Chief Eric Werner also made it a point to reach out to their family.
“He would call just to see how I was doing. That was really cool,” said Bruce.
Shelly added that Rosemount city staff, the St. Joseph community and Rosemount High School have shown support in different ways.
“We’ve been so blessed. What a giving community we have,” said Shelly.
While it doesn’t cure the disease, Shelly said the experience has filled her heart with love and gratitude.