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Survivor Stories

When I walked in my first Avon Walk for Breast cancer in 2006, I did it to remember those in my life who had lost their battle with breast cancer, including both my grandmothers.  I did it to celebrate the victories of friends and co-workers who had won their fight.  Since then, I have had the opportunity to meet many people who have been touched by the scourge that is breast cancer.  They have honored me by sharing their stories with me.  Each one’s story is unique, and yet, similar to each others.

My grandmother’s secret

gma_guerig1In the late 1970’s, my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. At that time, treatment options were very limited. She was able to bravely fight the disease for a short time with the aid of strong pain killers.

The breast cancer was not diagnosed until after she had developed visible lesions.  At that time, one did not talk about cancer.  It was only whispered among the immediate family.   It was a time before the ubiquitous pink ribbons and fund-raising walks;  A time when cancer was a death sentence.   Now with greater awareness and openness about breast cancer, early detection can yield high survival rates.

It is hard to believe, but there are still places where cancer continues to carry a stigma and people are dying because of culture mores: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122304682088802359.html

I am gathering stories of people who have fought cancer to share with the readers of this blog, so that you too can be inspired by their courage and fortitude.  Their stories can help family and friends better understand what their loved one is going through.  Bringing the stories into the light of day, may help someone seek treatment, unlike my grandmother who waited too long.  “There is no knowledge that is not power.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Don’t waste time wondering “Why you?”, because it is you.

Guest blogger, Jean Stephens, sent me an account of her journey with breast cancer.  Read her inspirational story about learning she had cancer and how she was not going to give in to the disease.  Knowing is power and knowing what to expect during treatment can help allay some of the fear.

“You have breast cancer.” By Jean Stephens

Jean and her friend Lisa, bald as cue balls

Jean and friend Lisa, bald as cue balls

Four words that, before Friday, April 21, 2006, I never expected to be directed at me.  Cancer happens to other people.  Isn’t that what we all think?

As I was lying on the floor earlier that month, finishing my post-running stretch, I reminded myself I was two months overdue for my annual mammogram.  I felt the area of fibrous tissue in my right breast that had been the subject of a sonogram the year before.  It seemed firmer than a year ago and was at times painful.  That spurred me to make an appointment.

Two days after the mammogram the imaging facility contacted me to request I come back for a diagnostic mammogram.  This is where they compress the breast to make as thin a layer of tissue as possible so that nothing can hide.  The technician showed me the films from the first mammogram and circled the “areas of interest”.  Diagnostic mammograms are, in a word, painful.  I especially like the technician’s instruction “not to breathe” when snapping the image.  Not a difficult request to comply with. Read the rest of the story here.

Avon Walkers from New York visit God’s Love We Deliver

glwd20090052The 3rd annual dinner for Avon Walkers was hosted again by the wonderful folks at God’s Love We Deliver (GLWD). We were greeted by Karen Pearl, President and CEO, Gary Snieski, Bill Gioconda, and Karen Bdera.

One of the highlights of the evening is having the opportunity to speak with clients who are currently receiving meals throught GLWD. In the photo on the left (second row, second from left), is Janice. I spoke to her at length about her journey with breast cancer. She was first diagnosed over 7 years ago. She was treated with the standard protocol of lumpectomy, radiation and chemo. When statistics are quoted for success rates in breast cancer, it is typically agreed that 5 years with a non-recurrence is a successful outcome. Janice passed the five year mark cancer free.

This year, 7 1/2 years since the first occurrence of breast cancer, she found a lump. It was a particularly aggressive tumor type. In July, she again underwent surgery and chemo. This time, the chemo resulted in neuropathy in her feet and hands along with a loss of taste and smell. She now needs to use a cane to walk in order to help with balance.

She contacted a meal delivery program because she was having trouble going to the market and cooking after her chemo sessions. Not to mention that not having a sense of taste or smell on top of the GI distress caused by chemo made eating unappealing. Janice was told that there was at least a one month waiting list before meals could start to be delivered. Much too long to wait… she had already lost 30 pounds and she had not started with much to spare in the first place.

A friend mentioned GLWD and Janice called. The following day, a nutritionist met with her and developed a dietary plan specifically tailored to Janice’s needs. Meals started to arrive the next day.

Janice is an extraordinary person. She has an indomitable spirit. She told her oncologist that she plans to live to 104 and she expects him to do everything to ensure she reaches her goal. I asked her to invite me to her birthday party.

God’s Love We Deliver, provides nutritious, freshly prepared meals to people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, Alzheimers and other life-altering illnesses who cannot shop or cook for themselves. They serve people in New York City and Hudson County and Newark, New Jersey. All of their services are provided free of charge.

On average, GLWD delivers over 3,000 meals every weekday, year round. To date, GLWD has delivered over 10 million meals to clients. In addition, they provide nutritional education and counseling, and client advocacy.

God’s Love We Deliver received $200,000 from the Avon Foundation to continue the program to provide nutrition education and meals to breast cancer patients and their families throughout the New York area. God’s Love We Deliver is part of a network of nutrition programs funded by the Avon Foundation across the country.

Watch a short video about the services they provide: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEXfC_9iO3E . To learn more or to make a donation visit their website: http://glwd.org/index.html. Or consider sponsoring me as I will again be participating in the GLWD Race to Deliver 4K in Central Park on November 22 to raise money for this very worthwhile organization.

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