LENEXA, Kan. — On the first day of October, Susan Leichter’s Lenexa neighbors know what they can expect.
“Everyone expects this from us,” she said. “We’re known as the Halloween house.”
But this year, Leichter has outdone herself.
Her usual over-the-top decorations (a zombie woman in a rocking chair by the front door, skeletons on a sinking pirate ship on her front lawn) are now accompanied by an ambitious haunted maze in her backyard, complete with figures of Jason, Freddy and motion-detecting spiders and werewolves.
“It’s just so fun to watch people getting such joy out of it,” Leichter said.
And this year, Leichter’s neighbors know her passion for Halloween is being fueled by something a little extra. In June, doctors diagnosed her with Stage 2 breast cancer.
“Cancer is very scary,” Leichter said. “It’s scary not only for you, it’s scary for your kids, your family members.”
Despite a grueling regimen of chemotherapy that saps Leichter’s energy for days at a time, she never once considered postponing this year’s Halloween extravaganza.
“There was never a question,” Leichter said. “As soon as my diagnosis was done, I kind of used that as my excuse to buy extra stuff. My son calls it my cancer card.”
Leichter said her doctors have given her a very promising prognosis for recovery. And as many doctors will say, the right attitude or a passion project can serve as a powerful medicine.
“It’s tough. It can be really easy to say ‘I’m done,'” Leichter said. “But this, for me, it gives something to fight for, something to smile about, to be happy about.”
Once she is finished with chemotherapy, she will begin rounds of radiation treatment.
It can be a long battle, but Leichter is determined to fight the disease the only way she knows how: by embracing life and everything she loves about it.
“This year’s going to be great; next year’s going to be even better. I’m looking forward to it.”