It was a sad moment for Lexington amateur golfer and Lafayette High School math teacher Marsha Bordas when she got the note from a fellow competitor saying that she was sorry to have to welcome her to the sisterhood of breast cancer.
But Bordas did not let a double mastectomy in late March force her to let her golf clubs gather dust.
Against the odds, Marsha Bordas played in the state women's golf tournament June 22-26 at Georgetown's Cherry Blossom Golf Club. It was the 44th year that she and her mother, Ruby Bird, 83, had attended the tournament together.
But Bordas won't be playing in this year's Lexington Women's City Golf Championship on August 1-2: She had reconstructive surgery last Friday, adding implants to her chest, and is under doctor's orders to limit her physical activity for a few weeks.
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Bordas, 60, won the city championship in 1984 and 1999.
But Bordas figures she's had a good summer nonetheless: She played in the state tournament, where she was the runner-up in 1992, and in the Burley Belles tournament in Cynthiana, an event founded by her parents.
After she gets an all-clear to again swing a golf club, she'll be back, she said.
Bordas, who won Lexington's Marion Miley tournament in 2002 and 2007, isn't done yet: Not done with golfing, and not done with teaching math at Lafayette, where she has spent 25 of her 37 years as a schoolteacher.
She readied her classroom before her most recent surgery and promised her surgeon she wouldn't stretch to write on a blackboard. Besides, she has other scholarly tools: "After 37 years, I don't need a book to teach from. I can teach from my head."
Bordas has played competitive golf since she was selected for the first Lafayette girls' golf team, in 1965. Heather Kraus, who lost the Marion Miley tournament to Bordas in 2002, at the time called Bordas "a person that is always in contention in every event we play in."
Says Bordas of her struggle with cancer this spring and summer: "I'm a very competitive person. This was just another battle I had to win."
The worst part of having invasive breast cancer, she recalls, was hearing that her Feb. 19 lumpectomy — a surgery in which the cancerous lump and some surrounding material were removed, sparing the breast — didn't yield a specimen with clear margins. That meant that some cancer cells might still be present.
Bordas decided to have a double mastectomy on March 26, the Thursday before the Fayette County public schools' spring break. Since her cancer had not reached her lymph nodes, she did not have to have chemotherapy.
"I thought, I want to get on with my life," she said. "If we get rid of all possibilities (of additional cancer), that's best."
She got back to golfing as quickly as she could after her surgery, but post-surgery golf carried a different set of physical demands: After the double mastectomy, she had "spacers" — platelike devices that leave room for eventual implants—and worried about possible injury.
Bordas was, she said, "swinging scared," until she had an epiphany during the state tournament: "I thought, just go ahead and swing."
Bordas' son Jay, who teaches physical education and health and coaches basketball at Bourbon County High School, calls his mother "one of the toughest ladies I've ever met .... a true competitor."
And he recalls how his mother told him she had cancer. She was sorry that she had to tell him on the day when Bourbon County was going to play archrival Paris: "Here she calls me, she got the test back, and she has cancer. I'll never forget. She said, 'I'm sorry to tell you this. You've got a big game tonight.'"
Bordas said he knew there were more important things than games. Still, he said, he knew that cancer couldn't hold back his mother for long.
Said Marsha Bordas: "I just said, this was not going to change my life. I was going to be the same person."