BRAvo 2018 dancer profile: Ann and Dr. Weemes

Ann and Dr. Kristopher Weemes

While on her way home in March of 2015, Ann had to pull over into the parking lot of a department store.

She never left the car, just sat parked and cried for 20 minutes before finishing her drive home.

She was on her way back from a doctor's appointment where she was told of the results of her biopsy.

Days prior, following her annual mammogram, doctors found a lump and biopsied. (She preferred the 3D mammogram, available through McLaren Macomb.)

She had just learned the tests came back positive for breast cancer.

Trying to spare her family "“ a husband and two children "“ from any unwarranted heartache until she knew for sure, she hadn't told anyone about her tests. But now she would have to.

"I was 11 years old when my father died of cancer," Ann said, the mother of 12- and 14-year olds. "So I knew exactly how devastated my kids would be with the diagnosis and how hard the journey would be for them.

"I knew what they would have to go through from having lived through it myself with my dad, and I would do anything to not put my kids through that. It was going to be so hard to tell them."

While she sat and waited for her appointment, she was reading an infographic about the stages of cancer "“ 1 through 4.

"I was just thinking "˜don't be a 3 or a 4,' " she said. But her oncologist, Dr. Paul Thomas Porter, told her she was stage 3.

Ann was very good about getting her annual mammograms. Nothing was detected the previous year, so to already have advanced to stage 3 in a year led doctors to determine she had a particularly aggressive form of cancer. It had already spread to her lymph nodes.

This was a lot for Ann to take in during her initial meeting. But when she came in for her first treatment day, she was ready.

"I did everything to have a positive attitude going into this and I truly believe that was key for me. Dr. Porter said to know what you're fighting for "“ I have a husband and two kids," she said, still emotional at the memory. "But I also told them two things, I told all the doctors that I am Bailey and Amberley's mom, and I am not going to leave them like my father left me. So set it up and I will do whatever you say. But we also have to leave laughing. Tell me a joke, tell me something, but I have to leave laughing."

Ann's treatment would be extensive. She would have a double mastectomy, six rounds of intensive chemotherapy, neulasta injections and 39 radiation treatments, lymphedema treatment and reconstructive surgery in a year's time. But she was deemed cancer-free in a year-and-a-half. (As is her mother, who battled uterine cancer last year and was successfully treated by the same physicians who cared for Ann.)

She is eternally grateful for all the love and support she received at McLaren Macomb, from surgeon Dr. Stephen Cahill, radiation oncologist Dr. Stephen Franklin, Dr. Porter and all the office staff, her chemo nurse, Cindy, and the entire radiation team.

"I can't thank them enough for being there for me and my mom," she said.

In 2017, she attended her first BRAvo event, watching the "Dancing With Our Docs" performances, thinking how much she "would like to do that next year."

Not expecting a call at all, BRAvo organizers reached out to her.

"I was very excited," she said. "I wasn't expecting it at all, but it would be an awesome challenge and a chance for me to get up there and say "˜I'm here.' "

Ann is paired with McLaren Macomb OB/GYN Dr. Kristopher Weemes, who encounters women's health issues every day and is proud to be the first OB/GYN to participate in the event.

"It was easy for me to say yes because I deal with women's health every day," he said.

He has also had close encounters with cancer in his personal life, having lost his grandfather, grandmother and brother to the disease.

"My brother died of cancer when he was 34," Dr. Weemes said. "I am now the age he was when he passed."

The moment he was approached to participate, he was actually thinking about that fact and can't help but appreciate the coincidence.

BRAvo 2018
"Don't Gamble on the Girls"
5 p.m. Tues., Oct. 16
The Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township
Get your tickets and donate to your favorite dancing pair at mclaren.org/bravo.