Laura Hadland Feuer of Huntington spent her childhood summering in Montauk, a tradition begun by her grandfather who came out to camp at Hither Hills in the early 1900s. Feuer returned every summer until she was 22, working herself through college with jobs at The Circle Restaurant, Tony’s and The Dolphin. She eventually landed a gig at the coveted popcorn stand at Gosman’s Dock, and later became a waitress at Gosman’s. After attending the University of Georgia, she became a flight attendant while teaching aerobics in Atlanta.
When she was 31, Feuer was hit head-on by a drunk driver and spent weeks in the ICU, on a respirator with a broken back and a colostomy, and underwent five abdominal surgeries. She can remember how painful it was, lying in the ICU, feeling her muscles atrophying. She believes that because she was so fit, she survived, and soon after, ran the Atlanta half-marathon.
Fifteen years later, Feuer had another life-altering experience. During a tennis match, while chasing down a ball, she ran chest first into a fence. What she thought was a swollen bruise was, as Laura describes it, “a golf ball-sized tumor with arms” — late stage three breast cancer with node involvement.
Feuer recalls her very first emotions as total shock and devastation to her mind and body. She didn’t pray or cry, but sat quietly alongside her husband in a church pew. She asked God to show her his plan. Feeling an overwhelming healing light surround her, she went home to prepare for battle. Friends and family reactions were tough.
“Asleep after a chemo treatment, I sensed someone in the room, opened my eyes, and my mom was standing over me, tears in her eyes,” Feuer recalls. “I felt terrible that she was upset and worried. I got out of bed, faked it and did my best to act happy and strong the rest of the day, and everyday after. I didn’t take care of myself at times. I put on a show.”
Feuer’s self-talk was more of a story. “General Schwarzkopf (the chemo) was sending an army to fight the bad guys. I’d lose some good guys in the battle, but I was certain I’d win the war,” she says. The darkest day was when her hair fell out. It started on the tennis court and then the rest came out in the shower after. She decided not to look in the mirror until it grew back. She allowed herself down days and would push herself to be “live” on other bad days. She gained strength through prayer, continued to play tennis and exercised to keep strong.
Getting the action plan from her doctor was everything. Six months of chemo to shrink the tumor, then a total mastectomy, followed by 38 rounds of daily radiation. Three months later, Feuer went for a mammogram of the remaining breast and they found atypical cells. She had a mastectomy on the remaining breast and reconstruction for both. After the surgery, she became very ill and ended up back in the hospital for 10 days with MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph infection. Then she was home on an IV for another 10 days.
Even after Feuer won back her wellness (twice!), thoughts of cancer returning are always back-of-mind. She sat through many chemo sessions with her sorority sister Jeannie, who had already beaten cancer, only to have it reappear in her shoulder. Jeannie stopped going to chemo and died four months later. After treatment was over, Feuer assembled a team for the 60-mile, three-day breast cancer walk in Jeannie’s honor. The Boomerang Gang consisted of sorority sisters that hadn’t seen each other in over 20 years, family from New York, friends and neighbors. Feuer raised $320,000. Soon after, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Boomerang Gang rented and furnished a house in Atlanta for a family of six who had lost their home to the hurricane.
Today, Feuer is a vibrant, super fit, 65-year-old grandmother who enjoys lots of tennis, group fitness and watching Wheel of Fortune with her husband Joe of 42 years. She drinks fresh lemon juice in a tall glass of water every morning and eats organic red grapes daily. Her go-to meal is a smoothie made with protein powder, micro-greens, banana and red grapes. Her favorite nature spot is the cliffs at the end of Seaside Avenue in Montauk. “I visualize myself there often, when I need to calm myself, regroup or feel peaceful,” she says.