LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Almost everybody who knows horse racing knows Jennie Rees. You've seen her at the track or consulted her Derby columns in the Courier-Journal. Rees spent 32 years covering the Kentucky Derby for the Courier-Journal. She shared her horse knowledge and she loved sharing the stories that surrounded the Derby. One event in particular always held a special place in her heart.
"I've always loved the survivor's parade since they created it. It was one of my favorite days, and I always cried watching it and everything," says Rees.
Last fall, Jennie took a buyout and left the Courier-Journal. The timing was just right--she had been named to the Honor Roll in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. And, she'd finally covered a successful Triple Crown bid.
"It just that everything was falling into place," Rees says.
Employees had 45 days to decide whether to accept the buyout. Rees used those days to consult financial advisors and make some medical appointments she'd been putting off, including having a mammogram.
"Then, I was called back again and had to do a biopsy. I started to get alarmed," Rees says. "They said 80-90 percent of the time, it's nothing. I was the 10-20 percent. But, the good news is that it was Stage Zero or DCIS. It was non-invasive; it wasn't into the lymph nodes."
Rees underwent a lumpectomy, then a second one was needed. She decided to have a double mastectomy to erase any concern about a recurrence. Her sister was a support during her surgeries and later nominated Jennie to walk in the Oaks Day survivors' parade.
Rees has a pink blouse to wear in the parade, but she won't wear a dress--it's not her style. She will certainly be wearing the awareness bracelets her sisters-in-law bought the day of her mastectomy.
Rees is a reluctant participant in some ways. "Certainly more women, I'd say the majority of women, who have breast cancer went through a lot more hardship than I did," Rees says.
But, she saw an opportunity to make a difference because so many people know who she is.
"I feel very passionate and strong about it because if it happened to me, it could happen to you," Rees says. "Ignoring it will not make it go away. it's just going to get to where it's going to be a whole lot worse."
Rees has worked more than half her life shining a spotlight on the events of this historic track. Now, the track returns the favor and shines spotlight on her.
"I better wear waterproof mascara for sure," says Rees. "I'm sure I'll be emotional. Look where we are. We'll be in front of the grandstand. There'll be 100-thousand people there. I'll be waving and smiling, and I'm sure they'll be some tears, too."
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