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SIOUX CITY | Breast cancer survivor Gayle Gregg wants to deliver one message to Sioux City Musketeers hockey fans at Saturday's Pink in the Rink: Get screened.

The 56-year-old Sioux City resident credits an annual mammogram screening with catching her cancer 11 months ago. Without early intervention, doctors predicted, the cancer would have spread to the rest of her body within three years, and she would have had two years to live after that.

"I was in shock. I didn't think it would happen to me," Gregg said. "But now I feel I'm on fire."

Gayle will be among 4,000 fans, hockey players and referees wearing pink Saturday to help raise awareness and funds for the Susan G. Koman for the Cure foundation.

Gregg, who works at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center, said events such as Pink in the Rink are important for funding breast cancer research aimed at finding a cure. That research has already led to the development of new treatments.

A decade ago, chemotherapy and radiation would have been her main treatment choices. Neither is effective at fighting her estrogen-driven cancer.

Instead, Gregg takes pills that inhibit the production of estrogen. While her current medication's side effects are not as extreme as the nausea or hair loss associated with chemotherapy and radiation, Gregg still has memory loss and joint pain.

"But it's still better than the alternative," she said.

Gregg's niece, Erika McWell, said her aunt's ability to stay optimistic has served as an inspiration to those around her. Even after she was first diagnosed, Gregg repeatedly told friends and family she would be OK.

In return, friends and family made sure Gregg was never alone for medical appointments and surgeries.

"She's got a very good network supporting her," McWell said. "She is usually the cheerleader for other people -- that's been her role throughout life. We have turned the tables on her to cheer her on."

Gregg said it will be weird having nearly 4,000 people cheer her on when she takes to the ice riding a Zamboni Saturday.

Gregg said she hopes the ride encourages other women to see their doctor.

"It's way out of my comfort zone riding a Zamboni, but I will do it in the name of early detection," she said. "It saved my life and I will ride the Zamboni if more people get a mammogram."

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Nate Robson is the education reporter for the Journal. He writes about issues impacting local school districts and colleges.

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