How and why did you become involved with Susan G. Komen VA Blue Ridge?
Shortly after I completed the more complicated of my chemo treatments and I started to feel a little better I begin to think more about the disease itself. I thought of my sister, my mother, my nieces, my daughter-in-law, my girlfriends, my girls from Sunday School classes or Children’s Choir, my future granddaughters (I hope) and I realized that they were all vulnerable to this disease. I wanted to do something about it, to help prevent them and anyone else from having to endure Breast Cancer.
I wasn’t familiar with our local Susan G. Komen affiliate but went to visit them to see what I could do to help and to find out more information about the organization as a whole. The time I spent there with Catherine and Samara only inspired me to work more to help wipe this disease out. It was also in that meeting that I shared with them my struggle to define myself as a survivor….when is it time to do that? They shared with me that Susan G. Komen declares you a survivor the minute you are diagnosed. Wow! I just loved that.
I don’t want another single women to suffer through this….aside from divine intervention (which I pray for daily) we also need money to fund research. I want to do everything I can to help fund that research. Susan G. Komen has a goal of reducing the number of deaths from breast cancer to half in the next decade. Katie Varney has a goal to see breast cancer eradicated in a decade. I know it is possible, we just have to work hard and fight for the cure!
Describe an uplifting moment you experienced during your time with Susan G. Komen VA Blue Ridge.
Our local affiliate sponsors an event called “Komen Conversations” that I went to in October. The topic was “Healing Arts” with art professional and fellow survivor Decca Knight. I am NOT an art person but I wanted to encourage the program so I grabbed several fellow survivors and went.
The project involved a mask where we described how the world saw us or how we wanted the world to see us on the “outside” and then we flipped the mask over and described how we saw ourselves. There were women of all stages and ages at that meeting but I was struck by that we all basically had the same type mask. On the outside we want to appear strong, courageous, upbeat, joyful, etc. but on the inside many of us are still struggling with fear, anger, discouragement, etc. I was struck by how this disease takes no prisoners in that everyone who experiences it will appreciate these emotions at one time or another. Not everyone “does” Breast Cancer the same way but it is pretty consistent in many of our emotions. There is a bond there between fellow survivors, a safety net that says “it’s okay to feel this way, I do too” and great comfort in knowing you are not alone with these thoughts. I loved that, was encouraged by it and yes, I am a believer in the Healing “Art” now as well.
What advice would you give to community members about Susan G. Komen?
Seek out information! Don’t just listen to me or other people, the internet, etc. Go to the office, review the Annual Report with the staff there, see the transparency of the organization both on the local and national level, ask questions, and make yourself comfortable. Enjoy the power you get when you fight back as they can help you do that in so many ways.
What keeps you motivated and committed to Susan G. Komen’s mission?
Every time I look in the mirror and wish I had my hair back, or see the multiple scars on my body, or have to stop and rest when I never had to before. Every time I am inconvenienced in any way because of the aftermath of treatments. Every time I have to go get “hooked up” for the chemo drug I am on now (Herceptin). Every time I hear the story of a woman who participated in a test group for breast cancer drugs and treatment. Every time I see my sister, my mother, my nieces, young women who I have mentored through Sunday School and Children’s Choirs, my coworkers, friends, their children, any woman I think to myself….I am fighting for you. I am fighting as hard as I can because I don’t want you to EVER have to go through this. The experience of cancer is one of the best motivators you can have I think.