Ann Louden: ‘A force to be reckoned with’

Ann+Louden%3A+A+force+to+be+reckoned+with

She has a tall, thin frame and a spunky attitude that nobody would forget; for someone as busy as her, she’s always sporting a smile on her face.

She is up endless hours working on something valuable to her heart. One could catch an email from her at two in the morning, or an Instagram post at one in the morning of her finishing work.

Her name is Ann Louden, a tireless advocate for causes, and more importantly, a breast cancer survivor.

She’s the face of Frogs for the Cure, an organization dedicated to “supporting those with breast cancer and helping to find a cure,” and for her, it’s more than just what she battled; it’s her hunger to give back.

“I love my work and I love all of the things that I can give back to,” Louden said. “A part of me is not complete unless I find that I can help somebody else along the journey.”

In addition to running an organization, Louden is also TCU’s chancellor’s associate for strategic partnerships, one of 11 people working directly under Chancellor Victor J. Boschini, Jr.

Director of Undergraduate Nursing Suzy Lockwood, Louden’s friend and Frogs for the Cure committee member, describes Louden as a “firecracker.”

“Whatever she does, she does really big and it makes a big impact,” Lockwood said.

Before being diagnosed with breast cancer, Louden was involved in a multitude of causes in the Fort Worth community, one being women’s health care.

“Women’s health care happened to be one of those causes that I really cared about, but I didn’t know that it was going to be so personal to me,” Louden said.

The Diagnosis

Louden lived a fairly healthy lifestyle. She wasn’t an athlete and was never concerned for her health.

“I had managed to get through most of my adult life with a few health scares, but nothing that was really serious,” Louden said. “But I didn’t have enough family history of cancer to really get me in a hyper vigilant state before I was diagnosed.”

It wasn’t until her trip to Disney World with her daughter, Carey, who was nine at the time, that Louden became puzzled as to why she was so exhausted.

“And here I am at this beautiful place, the happiest place on Earth and I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have enough stamina,” Louden said.

She remembers going out to the parks with her daughter in the mornings and then having to go take a nap in the afternoons, a way she says was not like her.

“At 10 o’clock, I’d want to come take a nap or go to bed and I’m the person who stays up until two in the morning,” Louden said.

It wasn’t until three weeks after her trip to Disney that Louden went to her routine mammogram, which she was receiving six months late.

“I was very vigilant about doing it in the yearly cycle, but I was just running late that year,” Louden said.

Before going in, Louden recalls sitting in her car planning on redecorating her third-grade daughter’s bedroom. While on the phone with her friend, she explained how she was getting a mammogram and then going shopping for her daughter.

When her friend asked if it were routine, she vividly remembered saying, “Of course it’s routine. I don’t have any cancer in my family!”

“I’ll never forget having said that,” Louden said. “First of all, it was misinformation, because I know now that had nothing to do with it. The second thing was that I would have never known that I had symptoms, but thank God I went that day and did the digital mammogram screening.”

According to Louden, a digital mammogram is necessary if one has dense breast tissue, like Louden does.

During her mammogram, Louden couldn’t help but think about her fatigue, even though that wasn’t the reason she scheduled her mammogram. She did mention to the doctors that she was tired but that it was the only unusual thing.

After conducting the test, Louden’s doctor needed another screening after detecting something in her right breast, so she was scheduled for an ultrasound.

“I just remember lying on the table and counting the ceiling tiles, much like these, but they were much closer,” Louden said as she looked up and pointed at the ceiling. “I remember looking up at the grid and thinking how many were in each row doing the multiplication tables, because I was trying to distract myself.”

While waiting on the table for the ultrasound to finish, Louden was thinking back to a previous conversation with her radiologist about how having dense breast tissue puts her at a risk for breast cancer.

“I remember those conversations, but I never knew what they meant,” Louden said. “It just didn’t register for me.”

During the ultrasound, Louden also remembers the two technicians saying, “Is it here? Is it there? Is that it at one o’clock?” Not knowing what they were seeing made the ultrasound unbearable.

“You remember these moments forever and you know the screen is behind you and all you want to do is turn around,” Louden said. “I remember at one point I turned around and asked them what they see, and they said that they can’t say until they do a further investigation.”

This put Louden in a state of alarm.

After the ultrasound, she was told to see her physician, which was scheduled two hours later. Louden sat outside on what she described to be a beautiful day, only to begin calling her loved ones with grim news that she might have a cancer diagnosis.

Once in her physician’s office, Louden was handed a piece of paper that read that she had 95 percent malignancy in the tumor in her right breast.

From there, her journey began.

Fighting Cancer

The day after her diagnosis, Louden went to Carey’s school and notified her teachers that by the following Monday, her daughter will know that her mother has cancer and she doesn’t know how Carey will react.

“One of the teachers started crying and it was just this really hard thing for me to be the one to cause people to cry,” Louden said. “I had so many emails from people and I couldn’t answer any of them, and it gets overwhelming and makes you emotionally exhausted.”

Louden immediately began researching her cancer and where she would have treatments at.

She began looking at UT Southwestern, which graded her cancer at Stage 1 Grade 1. UT Southwestern doctors told Louden she should receive chemotherapy in addition to radiation, which Louden did not want.

“I didn’t want to do [chemotherapy] because I felt like it would be super hard for me and I just know my body and I knew I was going to have trouble,” Louden said.

Because UT Southwestern was pushing her to have chemotherapy, Louden decided to get a second opinion at the nationally renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where they graded her cancer at Stage 1 Grade 2.

Louden also did a test called the Oncotype DX, in which a section of the tumor is taken and assessed for recurrence. Doctors then give the patient a number between one and 35.

“Unfortunately, my number was right in the middle, and so I didn’t know if it was advantageous or not,” Louden said. “So then they leave it up to you. And I said I didn’t want to do it, and my oncologist at UT Southwestern supported my decision and my journey.”

Instead, Louden did seven weeks of radiation, every day.

On her way to treatments, she would stop at the Park Hill Café by the TCU campus, and the owner at the time would make her a turkey sandwich to take with her to eat in the car. Every day she would have radiation and make it back in time for Carey’s carpool to drop her off.

“I really didn’t want her to wallow in it and radiation is exhausting and tiring,” Louden said. “My appearance didn’t change, and I know I looked really tired, like I do now, but I was determined that I was going to put on the best face for her because I decided that it was going to be too hard if I didn’t do it that way, and she’s my only child.”

However, Louden never minded going to radiation. She felt that, every day she went, she was doing something for herself.

She always wore red booties to radiation. Her goal was to kick cancer, and she knew that would be the way for people to remember her.

“That was my look,” Louden said. “They would say, ‘Here she comes again with her red boots.’”

Louden also became friends with all the technicians. She brought them all Halloween candy on Halloween, and she spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with them.

“I had to have a relationship with these people because they were taking care of my health,” Louden said.

Throughout treatment, Louden did everything she could to maintain a normal life, meaning she did not want to draw attention to herself.

“I think people knew that I was going through this, but I wasn’t asking for any special attention,” Louden said. “I mean, people would say, ‘Can I bring you meals?’ and no, I didn’t want any of that. And I was really trying to keep it normal for my daughter, so I really just did the same thing that I’ve always done before.”

Not only did she maintain a normal life for her daughter, but she also began humanizing her cancer in order to make her feel more powerful than the deadly disease.

“I really tried to be the same person that I was because I wanted the cancer to think that I was the same person,” Louden said. “I wasn’t going to be changed by this. That was my goal.”

Persevering through treatment.

She continued working at TCU during radiation as well. She never needed the university to step in or have someone sub for her.

“There was no loss to TCU during this time,” Louden said.

Louden said Chancellor Boschini was also there for her through treatments and work.

“The chancellor was great,” Louden said. “I remember I was working on a Sunday and the chancellor was here, and I guess he saw my car in the parking lot and he came and knocked on the door. I went out to open the door and he said, ‘Can I come in and talk to you?’ I said, ‘Sure,’ and he sat down in the chair and he said with tears in his eyes, ‘Are you going to be okay?’ And I said, ‘I promise you that I’m going to be okay. Don’t you worry about me; I’m going to be fine. I don’t want you to think about it anymore. I’m going to be okay.’ And so I think he wanted to hear that from me.”

Louden even maintained Frogs for the Cure while going through her cancer journey. The day of the Frogs for the Cure game in 2006, Louden was back in the hospital, but felt she had to attend halftime.

“The day of the game I got out of the hospital and put on my shirt and got over to campus for the half time show,” Louden said. “So it was one of those, ‘I’m determined to figure out how I’m going to make other people feel okay about this journey because it’s not fun.’

Louden said there was nothing enjoyable about the journey. However, she said when someone surrounds themselves with a community, that’s what really makes a difference.

“I think that’s the strength of Frogs for the Cure,” Louden said. “I love the ways that people come here with their own set of challenges to find some comfort. If that’s all we do, for me that’s good enough.”

In all, Louden’s main message is to raise awareness for breast cancer and to educate students.

“For me to be able to provide inspiration through something tangible where people can live on is a very powerful motivation for me to continue to lead this effort,” Louden said.

Post Cancer

 

After seven weeks, Louden was free of radiation and began a hormone drug therapy pill treatment that lasted three years. The pills sent Louden to the doctor’s office on numerous visits, causing problems from back issues, to stomach issues, to lung and blood pressure issues.

“It had terrible side effects,” Louden said. “It was changing my quality of life. I’m super drug-sensitive, that’s why I was so concerned about the chemo. I just thought it would take me under. It was very harsh for me.”

When Louden was done with the radiation and cancer-free, she began to make regular visits to the doctor’s office for blood work to make sure she wasn’t showing any signs of abnormalities.

“The first five years it is every six months,” Louden said. “I still go every six months. My doctors let me, and I feel like that’s encouraged.”

Post cancer, Louden was making the decision to try to get back to a place where she can physically function at the highest level possible.

“It’s my personal mantra to take the kernel of the idea and turn it into something big and inspiring,” Louden said.

Lockwood said everything Louden decides, it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen very big.

“Every year this thing with Frogs for the Cure gets bigger and bigger and so it’s like firecrackers getting bigger and bigger every time they go off,” Lockwood said. “You sort of know when the end of the show was coming because it’s this big, huge event.”

Lockwood said Ann Louden is more than just a breast cancer survivor, “she’s a force to be reckoned with.”