In the United States alone, more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. One of the most famous breast cancer survivors is Peggy Fleming, the Olympic gold skating champion, who was diagnosed with the disease seven years ago. NBC's chief financial correspondent, Anne Thompson, recently sat down with Fleming to talk about her battle and her efforts to raise money for breast cancer research.
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People who are old enough remember Peggy Fleming bringing home the gold medal during the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France.
But today, the skating icon has a new pair of blades — harvesting grapes at her Northern California home with husband Greg Jenkins for their Fleming-Jenkins Winery.
Peggy Fleming: Making something beautiful — I love that — and producing wonderful, tasty grapes. That's what we're all about here.
Anne Thompson: And yet it seems so different from everything else you've done in your life.
Thompson: There are no costumes. No cameras.
Fleming: [Laughter] No, but the competitive spirit does come out. I mean, I think you want to grow the best grapes that you possibly can and you know that that doesn't happen overnight. Just as skating, you don't become an Olympic champion overnight.
At 19, she became America’s golden girl — the country's only Olympic champion at the ’68 Winter Games — and has never lost her luster.
Now 57, she's nurturing a different career as a winemaker. One of the wines is called Victories Rose and is produced to raise money for breast cancer research.
Thompson: What does Victories Rose symbolize for you?
Fleming: Lots of victories that people have along the way. All of those steps, even little steps are victories, and, the ultimate victory is to survive.
It's something Peggy and Greg know a lot about. She has survived breast cancer and thrived — continuing her career as a skating commentator, endorsing products and, most importantly, sharing the story of her most personal triumph.
Fleming: When I got this diagnosis, it was like somebody pulled the rug out from underneath me.
Peggy made the discovery in 1998 when she found a lump in her breast. While she was performing in Boston, Greg, a dermatologist, got the diagnosis.
Thompson: You got the news from the doctor.
Thompson: You had to tell her that. How hard was that?
Jenkins: That was a very tough moment. You know, how do we do this, how do we present it, how do we keep looking at things on a positive point of view and to keep one's spirits up and to not let one's mind start dwelling on all the negative things. So that's a moment you don't really want to have happen to you too many times in your life.
The surgery came almost 30 years to the day after Peggy won the gold medal. The same determination and discipline that made her a champion would make her a survivor.
Fleming: As a competitor, you know, you never go out there to skate a performance and go gosh, I hope I don't fall. Or I hope I don't come in last, and approaching cancer's kind of the same way, too. Just going out there. I'm going to do everything I'm supposed to do.
Thompson: And yet you say it taught you humility and compassion?
Fleming: Oh, absolutely. I met incredible people at my radiation center. I have so much more compassion for patients who are going through health crises like that, and my heart really goes out to all of them.
There have been other changes too.
Thompson: I can't believe you're a grandmother.
Fleming: That's the best part. That's the best part, because now they're coming back.
Their oldest son, Andy, has given them three grandchildren, and 17-year-old Todd is still at home. Fleming says her life has come full circle.
Thompson: Do you think that positive attitude — that's made a big difference in your survival?
Fleming: I do remember the dark sides, but I try not to dwell on them. There's nothing I can do about them anymore. I can change the future. I can't change the past.
To learn how you can help support breast cancer research, visit http://www.flemingjenkins.com/victories/default.htm.
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