week three… cancer fighting family

Tri-State family unites to take on breast cancer!

Sweeney Family at their first Race for the Cure

Our life changed four years ago when we heard the words “you have breast cancer”. The first thing that Keith and I worried about was how do we tell our two young sons what we had ahead of us without scaring them? Keith’s suggestion was to stay positive and keep moving in the right direction to our goal- beating cancer. That’s just what we did- laughed through the tears when I lost my hair, cuddled in to watch movies when I didn’t feel good during my treatment, and raising money for Susan G. Komen Cincinnati to fund research towards finding a cure.  Through our fundraising efforts as a family by forming Team SuperGirl!, the boys were able to learn that they can take an active role in  making a difference. 

The boys and the lemonade stand that started it all…

 

It all started with an idea to set up a corner lemonade stand, with the profits going to our Race team. Then the ideas started to flow!  Used book sales, garage sales, selling pink bottles of water outside Kroger and donation boxes at local businesses. It really starts to add up! Each year, as The Race for the Cure rolls around, our family looks forward to making an impact. Turning a negative into a positive, a lesson my boys have learned early in their lives. Susan G. Komen Cincinnati has taught our family that the world is bigger than just us, and that ideas, no matter how small they may seem, put together can make a huge difference!

Carson and a friend at the 2011 Power of the Promise Event- where Carson was recognized at the top Kid’s for the Cure fundraiser. He has raised over $3000 in the past two years!

Team SuperGirl at Great American Ballpark at the 2011 Race

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week two… the glass is half full

“The glass is always half full,” that’s how Tina Kehr Conrad lived her life.  Even in the face of a devastating diagnosis of Stage IV triple negative breast cancer at the age of 41, Tina chose to remain positive.   Instead of focusing on losing her hair, Tina named her new wig “Jolene.”  Instead of worrying about the pain of a double mastectomy, Tina joked about getting new “ta-tas.”   Tina was determined that her breast cancer wouldn’t define her.  It never did.

For 16 months, Tina battled breast cancer with grace, humor and her signature positive attitude.  Her friends, family and church rallied behind her. She never complained. Never said a negative word.  Instead, she focused on her fight, her family and her faith.

For Tina, it was important to reach out to other women facing this disease.  For Tina’s family, it was important to rally around her.  They decided to form the team “Tina’s Angels” for the 2010 Greater Cincinnati Race for the Cure.

Troy and his sister and HERO Tina!

When Race day came along on September, 25th 2010, Tina was weak and short of breath.  Her family suggested pushing her in a wheelchair.  But Tina’s glass was still half full.  She walked the entire 2k surrounded by loved ones.  Her doctor was amazed! “Tina’s Angels” raised nearly $8,000, catapulting her team to the top ten for fundraising.  Tina’s dream of helping others facing this disease had become a reality.

Less than two months later, Tina passed away.  Her friends, family and our Affiliate lost a beautiful warrior in the battle against breast cancer, but we know the glass is half full.  We also gained an Angel.  And because of “Tina’s Angels,” nearly $15,000 has been raised to fund local life-saving programs and breast cancer research.  Because of Tina, one hundred women in Greater Cincinnati have received mammograms that couldn’t otherwise afford them.  Because of Tina, women have a far better shot at early detection and living long lives.  And because of Tina, their glass is half full and so is ours!

be inspired.. week one

Can you believe it? September 29, 2012, will mark Susan G. Komen for the Cure Greater Cincinnati’s 15th Annual Race for the Cure. Over the past 15 years, each of us has been given reasons to fight for the cure for breast cancer. In the 15 weeks leading up to  the 2012 Race for the Cure, we will  be sharing with you just a few of the countless inspiring stories that have made our Affiliate what it is today. These stories will come from individuals who have helped in the trenches to give local women a fighting chance against this disease. These individuals are not only survivors, but are also co-survivors, grantees, sponsors, and volunteers. These are 15 lives that have forever changed the lives of thousands of others.  We hope you take the time to read each one… we promise you’ll be inspired!

Jean Lambers Bode and her entire family run, walk and fundraise each year in the Komen Greater Cincinnati Race for the Cure. The longtime commitment and passion that they have to make certain that others that are diagnosed with breast cancer have all the services and resources they need to fight and win their battle.

Nancy and friends at the 1999 Race for the Cure

Nancy and friends at the 1999 Race for the Cure
From left to right: Lisa Tanner (Nancy’s best friend,) Peggy Isenogle (1999 Race Chair,) Jen Armbruster (Nancy’s cousin and Volunteer,) Nancy Lambers Bresser, Jean Bode (Nancy’s big sister,) Cathy Westrich (Survivor and Volunteer.)

Jean writes:
My little sister Nancy did not do one amazing thing, she just simply was amazing.  Nancy Lambers Bresser was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 days after her 25th birthday, and passed away just shy of her 30th. During that time, she brought joy, hope and lived with serenity.  She did not set out to become a warrior in the fight against breast cancer, but she led the charge none-the-less. When our family searched for support we found a friend in Komen Cincinnati and the Race for the Cure. During her last year, Nancy was unable to walk unaided, but during the 1999 Race for the Cure, while proudly wearing her Number 1 Survivor Bib and pink hat, she was prompted by her best friend Lisa to get out of her wheelchair as they neared the finish line. Nancy with her beautiful smile, and shaky legs, courageously finished her Race walking by herself!  She was surrounded by a tear-filled crowd of family, friends and strangers, who all understood what they were witnessing.

Our family and friends continue to be proud supporters of the Komen Cincinnati Race for the Cure and were blessed when the Nancy Lambers Bresser Serenity Award was created in 2000, to honor those who lives have been touched by breast cancer. Nancy was so much more than a person with breast cancer; she was a wife, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, cousin, niece, and kindergarten teacher. In all those roles she simply lived the life she was given in peaceful acceptance and serenity. I continue the fight for her; I just wish I was doing it with her.  As Nancy said, “All is well.”

Nancy inspired her family to fight so those diagnosed with breast cancer have a chance to win their battle. Who inspires you? Share your inspiration and know we will finish this fight together!

Lobby Day 2011

Lobby Day 2011

The Advocacy Alliance of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® uses the power of activism to achieve important legislative objectives at federal, state and local levels.  Three women from the Greater Cincinnati Affiliate put that activism into practice as they joined Komen Advocates from all over the country to spend the day on Capitol Hill lobbying their legislators.

On April 14, 2011, Peggy Isenogle, Executive Director, and Amy Weber, Community Health Programs Manager, of the Komen Greater Cincinnati Affiliate, along with volunteer advocate, Linda Croucher, spent the day on Capitol Hill lobbying legislators that serve the regions covered by the Cincinnati Affiliate.  This includes districts in the Greater Cincinnati, Greater Dayton, Southeastern Indiana, and Northern Kentucky areas. 

Amy, Linda & Peggy

The first issue was to educate our Members of Congress on the importance of early detection.  In the last three decades, the overall survival rate for breast cancer has increased from 74 percent to 98 percent.  This is due, in part, to improved patient education and increased access to screening. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) has been instrumental in those improvements.  Since its inception twenty years ago, NBCCEDP has served 3.7 million women through breast and cervical cancer screenings.  These are provided to women by clinics and providers that have been awarded government funds to provide breast and cervical screenings and follow-up care for women who are uninsured and underinsured. 

As part of our lobbying efforts, we requested our Members of Congress to preserve the NBCCEDP, which currently receives $215 million from the federal government.  They were asked to show their support by signing a Congressional Resolution affirming their commitment to women’s breast health services by preserving NBCCEDP.  Preservation of this program would provide level funding of $215 million.  These dollars, provided through grants, along with the grants that are provided by the local Komen Affiliates, would insure that all women have the opportunity to be screened, and therefore possibly detected with breast cancer at its earliest, most treatable stage.

In addition to the request for level funding for the NBCCEDP, we asked our Members to support the reauthorization of the Breast Cancer Research Stamp (SB384; H466).  This is a stamp that was first issued in 1998 and has raised $72 million for breast cancer research.  The stamp is sold for 55 cents, for a 44 cent valued first-class stamp.  The remaining 11 cents from each stamp is dedicated to breast cancer research, with 70 percent of the funds being directed to breast cancer research at the National Institutes of Health, and 30 percent being directed to the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.  Reauthorization is needed by Congress to continue to make this stamp available past the end of 2011.

Peggy, Amy, and Linda visited ten legislative members and their staff representing Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. In our role as advocates, we met with both members of the Senate and House of Representatives to bring these important issues to their attention and maintain funding for breast health services and research.

A special thanks to volunteer advocate, Linda Croucher for sharing the important work being done by The Advocacy Alliance of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

2011 Komen Leadership Conference

The Greater Cincinnati Affiliate was proud to be a part of the 2011 Susan G. Komen for the Cure Leadership Conference. Over 1,000 advocates, Affiliate representatives, partners, and volunteers convened in Ft. Worth, Texas over March 24-27, 2011. Supporters came not only from around the nation, but from around the world.

Attendees heard from many of the leaders, active in the fight against breast cancer. Local affiliates from North Carolina and Oklahoma presented on their recent success in increasing their local budgets, which increased their abilities to extend their mission and support activities. A professor of Surgical Oncology, Dr. Mohamed Shalaan of Cairo, Egypt shared how the Race for the Cure has created more awareness than ever, in a culture that has kept the terrible disease concealed behind closed doors.  Attendees also heard from a panel of Komen Scholars- professors and scientists involved in ground breaking research. The Komen Scholars provided updates on targeted personal therapies, specifically in the fields of surgical treatment options and prevention methods based on genetic susceptibility. There were also representatives from the Komen Advocacy Alliance sharing tips and strategies for pursuing public policy and quality care in these tough economic times.

The Komen Leadership Conference highlighted the best-in class abilities that are only possible with the support and passion of our local communities. All of the components in the fight against this terrible disease were possible because of the local outreach and commitment to finding the cure- from fundraising with the Race for the Cure, to reaching women in rural communities where resources are scarce, to the initiatives taken by the Italian Affiliate of Komen to extend Komen’s global reach. In gathering and sharing these stories and experiences- it is with the hope that we may all learn from each other- to encourage and motivate one another, to further inspire the breast cancer movement.

Komen Greater Cincinnati representatives at the 2011 Leadership Conference.
Gene Barbor (Board Member), Hanna VanKuiken (staff), Amy Weber (staff), Peggy Isenogle (Executive Director, staff), Angela Norman (Board Member),
Karyn Ganaway-Balog (Board Member).

Click here for more photos and video from the conference.

Pictures Worth 1,000 Words

The Greater Cincinnati Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, is proud to introduce Amy Weber as a recent addition to the staff. Amy came to the Affiliate in September and her initial responsibility included collecting data for the 2011 Community Profile, an assessment of the needs and resources in the Greater Cincinnati service area. In compiling the Community Profile, alongside Amy, was a team made up of breast cancer survivors, agency representatives, and Affiliate staff that tackled this responsibility by deciding to collect multiple forms of data to give a full and accurate picture of the Greater Cincinnati Affiliate service area. Amy was excited to use a process called Photovoice to add a unique approach in gathering the perspective of female breast cancer survivors in the Affiliate service area.

The Photovoice process has typically been used to empower groups that are often “unheard” or “underrepresented” in traditional research (Wang & Burris, 1997; Wang, 1999). Female breast cancer survivors are often “moved through the agency processes” with efficiency and may come up against barriers that are often never addressed, recorded, or discussed. Photovoice was selected to (1) determine strengths and concerns of the current system, (2) increase discussion about issues facing this group, and (3) develop recommendations for improving processes that female breast cancer survivors experience.

A volunteer group of area breast cancer survivors participated in this project to be able to “tell” their story through photos. This project allowed women to reflect on their experience in a non-verbal way and perhaps “see” the process in a different way.  These groups took a number of pictures that they felt represented their experience as they moved through the process from diagnosis through survivorship. The photographs reflected breast cancer survivors’ experiences and comments that were collected in other forms of data, but put it into picture form for the community to “see”.

“This diagnosis, this “wall”… this unmoving force… makes me angry… makes me want to fight!”

 

Wondering more about the Photovoice project? Send Amy your questions at mission@komencincinnati.org.

2011 C4YW

The Annual Conference for Young Women affected by Breast Cancer (C4YW) was recently held in Orlando, Florida. The C4YW is the result of the collaborative efforts of The Young Survival Coalition, Living Beyond Breast Cancer & Susan G. Komen. The conference is focused on bringing together young women from all over to network with other young survivors, to hear the latest in breast cancer research and treatment and enable them to face breast cancer with knowledge, hope and courage.

Local survivor and top Komen fundraiser, Jan Middleton attended the C4YW 2011, and gives us an insight into her personal journey, and the hope and empowerment that this conference offers:

As a 3 year breast cancer survivor I always tell someone newly diagnosed that we all must take this journey in a way that works for us.  We cannot let others tell us how we should feel or how we should communicate. We must find our own way to mourn the many losses such as our breasts, our hair, our ovaries or our old lives.  Some women want to learn as much from the internet as possible and others want to only hear medical information from their doctors.  Some of us want private time to reflect while others prefer to be surrounded by people- the people we love, other survivors/support groups. 
When I was diagnosed in September of 2007, I was not private about my diagnosis but I could not handle being around others with cancer.  I am not sure why that was.  I was overwhelmed, terrified and felt like I could not be with someone that was or had gone through the horrible times that I was now experiencing.  One night, after spending way too many hours on the internet with Dr. Google (I don’t recommend this to anyone) I came across a website that was full of information dedicated to young women and breast cancer.  Getting breast cancer before menopause is not a good thing…this is the one time in your life that being “young” doesn’t necessarily play in your favor.  Young Survival Coalition focuses on critical issues unique to young women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. They provide resources, connections and outreach so women feel supported, empowered and hopeful.
The area of the website that got most of my attention was the online support group.  There were women from all over the world that were just like me….they were the same age as me or they had young children like me or they were worried about managing work and treatment or they were concerned about relationship issues.  I would spend hours reading the different online discussions and also the “signatures” of each participant.  Within most women’s signatures they would list their diagnosis, their treatment plans, surgeries, recurrences, etc.  I followed this site for weeks before I finally found the courage to become a member and post.  As soon as I did I received welcome messages from many women….welcoming me to the club that no one wants to join.  From there I joined a treatment group.  This is a group of women all starting chemo in the same month.  I went from doing this terrifying journey alone to having several girls sharing their experiences as they took the same chemotherapy drugs, lost their hair, got sick and tried their best to hang on to some type of normalcy in their lives.  As a treatment group we also had the support from hundreds of other members that were like big sisters to us.  They would follow our posts and “drop in” to offer advice on a variety of issues from nausea to how to talk to your children about losing your hair.  I had found my safe place!  These women became my sisters and they got me through the darkest days of my life.  They were there for me in the middle of the night when I could not sleep due to the fear that I may not live to see my children graduate from high school and they were there to celebrate with me when I got my new foobs (fake boobs)!
I was blessed because I had my friends and family that were so supportive of me…they helped with the kids, brought us meals and offered us constant support.  Along with these people from my “real world” I now had hundreds of new sisters that were there to help me and as I moved through my treatment I was able to begin to help others from what I had learned.  I would have never been able to get this far without all of these caring people.
I just returned from my third Conference for Young Women affected by Breast Cancer. Sessions offered over the weekend cover a variety of topics such as fear of recurrence, treatment updates, reconstruction options, metastatic disease, etc.  There are also sessions designed specifically for care providers and family.  During the weekend there are several opportunities for networking.  Break areas are designated by newly diagnosed, long term survivor, diagnosed while pregnant, triple negative disease, etc.  During breaks participants can meet with other survivors that they have something in common with.  Since many women attend the conference alone this is a great way to meet someone new.  It is wonderful to watch new friendships blossom and develop over the weekend. 
One of my favorite parts of the conference is the exhibitor area.  In this room you will find vendors selling all types of pink ribbon clothing and items, mastectomy swimwear, lymphedema sleeves, headcovers, etc.  Many of the drug companies that work with breast cancer have reps at the conference.  Part of my treatment plan included the drug Herceptin which I believe is the miracle drug for HER2 + breast cancer.  I will never forget meeting the Genomic Health rep at the Dallas conference in 2008.  He was able to answer so many questions for me and had all types of charts/graphs to show me on HER2+ breast cancer.  Massages and make up sessions are offered for free and we all love having our picture taken with Dusty Showers, (pictured, right with Jan) of the 2nd Basemen, and the Good Health Fairy (beyondboobsinc.org)! 
On Saturday evening there is a dessert social with a DJ and dancing, this is when everyone really comes together to relax and have fun.  I can tell you that there is nothing more moving than standing in the middle of hundreds of survivors on a dance floor and seeing their smiling faces as they sing “I will survive”!  For just a moment all worries are gone, the aches and pains seem to subside, the fear seems to go away as you feel the connection to these incredible women that surround you, we are brought together by tragedy yet we share a bond that only we can comprehend.    
The event ends concludes on Sunday and as the participants begin to depart there are many hugs and lots of tears.  Women that attend this event leave with a new sense of courage and empowerment to take control of their lives and not let cancer take control of them.  These women leave with an inner peace, they have been surrounded by women that really “get it”.  They leave with new friendships and
                                                          special memories created by reconnecting to old friends.
I want to thank Susan G. Komen for the Cure for being a major sponsor for the Conference for Young Women affected by breast cancer.  An event like this would not be possible without Komen’s support and I appreciate the fact that Komen recognizes the unique needs of women that are diagnosed prior to menopause.  We must continue to raise awareness and support the unique needs of young women that are diagnosed with breast cancer.  As I continue my cancer journey as a survivor my hope is that my daughter and all young girls will be able to grow up in a world without breast cancer.