“Where are you Christmas?” (sung by Faith Hill) has always struck a chord with FM100.3 radio host Rebecca Cressman, but this year she anticipates the carol will especially ring true.
“I’ll find the answer to that song more so this year because it’s my first holiday season battling cancer — nobody can foretell the future,” she says.
Pink Christmas: Celebrating the color of breast cancer awareness, mammograms and rose colored glasses
Because her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother passed away from cancer, Rebecca has long advocated for women to get mammograms, metaphorically waving the pink flag. Rebecca walked in for her first mammogram at age 35 because of her heightened risk. She regularly returned for testing until June 2019 when her mammogram showed ductal carcinoma, which is the same type of cancer her mother fought. Rebecca initially received the diagnosis of Stage 1, but her lumpectomy results revealed that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, and they reclassified her as Stage 2b.
“Nothing prepares you for the reality of cancer,” she says.
While accepting a serious diagnosis like this has included questions and fear, Rebecca has placed her story on a hill and not under a bushel. She uses her microphone — literally and figuratively — to encourage other women to be proactive about their health. As a radio host for FM 100.3 for 13 years, Rebecca has used the platform to spread the word. Rebecca’s segment — from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — is the longest running radio show in the Bonneville family.
This 54-year-old native of San Diego who lives in Spanish Fork began her treatment regimen with a lumpectomy. She now travels to the Huntsman Cancer Institute every three weeks for an aggressive chemotherapy appointment. Her radiation treatments began in November. Rebecca will continue to take cancer medication for the next 10 years.
Although she’s had to take time away from the sound booth after each chemo appointment, Rebecca has kept her radio voice active.
“I wanted to keep working so others could learn from my experience of how a mammogram found my breast cancer early,” she says. “Also, staying home and worrying about cancer is not good for me and my soul.”
As Utah’s home for Christmas music, FM 100.3 is good for the holiday soul.
“I love that music radio is about helping people find joy in their day,” she says. “We have more people who listen to Christmas music in Utah — we break records. No state loves Christmas music more than our state.”
When Rebecca hears Christmas music, she is transported to her 8-year-old self in flannel pajamas. Ironically, flannel pajamas also appear in her favorite Christmas memories as a mother.
She had her now-adult sons within a five-year period, so for many years the Cressman Christmases were filled with three flannel-clad boys and holiday magic.
Rebecca and her husband, Dale, would put footprints by the fireplace and plant reindeer droppings in the snow outside.
“I absolutely loved being a mom of littles,” she says. “It was invigorating to see the magic through the eyes of little children.”
As Rebecca prepares for this Christmas as a cancer patient, she’s shifting her focus from filling the room with gifts to filling the room with family and memory-making.
“Christmas is the great equalizer. We pause and remember we have much in common with our fellowmen,” she says. “Our hearts are tender. We’re compassionate.”
And to make this a pink Christmas, Rebecca has a game plan.
“I can buy pink tights and pink hats and pink mittens. I’m all in,” she says.
When she received her cancer diagnosis, Rebecca Cressman bravely committed to sharing her story publicly in the hope it would encourage other women to get mammograms.
“It’s hard to be bloated and bald. It’s hard to get used to a wig. But I’ve always said women are so much more than aesthetic value, and now I get to walk that talk,” she says.
Rebecca has learned to be forgiving and loving of herself.
“You don’t have to be at 100 percent to have meaning,” she says.