BUFFALO, N.Y. — "I always used to sleep on my stomach and I would lay down on my stomach to go to sleep and I would go man, something just doesn't feel right," recalled Cheryl Reinhardt, regarding a pain that prompted her to see a doctor, resulting in a grim diagnosis in 2004.
It was ovarian cancer, the same disease that killed her mother in 1980.
"She passed away at 48 and, oddly enough, I was 48 when they told me," Reinhardt said. "And the first thing you think is, 'Oh, I'm going to die.' "
There were others though, who were going to work to see that didn't happen, starting with Barb Waclawek.
They were dating when Cheryl was diagnosed in 2004. They were married in 2012.
"Cheryl has never lived lived as a cancer patient. Cheryl lives her life and cancer is just part of it," Waclawek said.
That attitude served Reinhardt well, because even after the removal of a cantaloupe sized tumor from her abdomen followed by chemotherapy, her battle with cancer was far from over.
"Eight years later I got it again. Same ovarian cancer, even though they took everything out. It likes that area," Reinhardt said.
Through 18 years of cancer treatments, there have been two consistencies: Barb's undying love and devotion, and Cheryl's team of cancer specialists at Roswell Park.
"She takes care of me at home and when I go to Roswell they take care of me like they're my family members too," Reinhardt said.
"Roswell has never said there's not another form of treatment for us," Barb added. "I mean, we've had some rough times don't get me wrong, but when she got really down and out a couple years ago when we did a trial and I'm like, 'I'm not letting you die. We've spent too much time getting this far.' "
And Cheryl knew that too.
"I always say cancer isn't the worst thing that can happen to you. Actually, I think it's the best thing because it changed me. It made me a better person," Cheryl said.
Said Barb, "I think her attitude is probably more effective in keeping her alive than her treatment sometimes ... because her will to live is stronger than the cancer's will."
Cheryl had been preparing to light the torch on Friday night by exercising with weights to ensure her form would be good when she lifted it.
"I feel like I won the Academy Award with this one," she said.
And she'll was doing it in part for others who may someday face what she has.
"There's probably a million people behind me you don't see, who are going to have to hear I have cancer like I did in 2004. And I want people to know it's been 18 years, and I'm still here, and I'm still here, and I'm still here because of people who take care of me, and Roswell Park, and those who study and make it their mission that you don't die."