MEET THE HEROES

Honor One. Save One. Be One.
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 Julie 6221 edited_BWMEET JULIE GLENN

Julie was diagnosed at age 41 with stage three infiltrating ductal carcinoma. She had no history of cancer in her family and no concerns were detected in her well woman exam.

Julie first underwent chemotherapy and during her fifth chemo treatment, Julie suffered a seizure. She credits her husband, then four-year-old son and mother with getting her through that time. “They have been the greatest gift.”

After successful chemotherapy, Julie underwent a bilateral mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and radiation. She is currently in recovery, preparing for two final reconstructive surgeries.

Julie’s diagnosis and treatment came on very quickly, but she is confident as she looks to the future. “2013 has been a journey, but 2014 will bless us with wellness and no cancer!”

“Stay positive! Accept the graciousness of others when offered. Be strong for your family and yourself. And remember that if you have a bad day, it’s just a day. Tomorrow will be better.”

Margaret 6299 edited_BWMEET MARGARET STEELE

Margaret was diagnosed at age 45 with stage two invasive carcinoma, ER+ breast cancer. After a routine visit with her doctor, Margaret was handed orders for a mammogram. She scheduled a mammogram and didn’t think twice about being called back for a second look. Before she knew it, she was having a biopsy.

After receiving the results of the biopsy, it was clear that a right mastectomy was necessary. Margaret was out for two weeks for her mastectomy. During this time, she began to share the diagnosis. “I was humbled by the outpouring of support from friends, family and even survivors that I have never met. It was then when I realized the enormity of breast cancer in our community.” 

Margaret started her first of four chemo treatments on Halloween. She remembers sitting next to a woman in a 50’s outfit sitting next to her to get her chemo. “She set the tone for me.”

Margaret underwent a second mastectomy this January, then started radiation and hormone therapy in March.

“I didn’t feel a lump. I didn’t feel bad. I’m 45 and in good health. I’m a perfect reason why mammograms are so important.” 

Sheila edited BWMEET SHEILA TAYLOR

Sheila was diagnosed first at age 34 and a second time at the age of 42 with stage three invasive ductal carcinoma, ER+ breast cancer.

The initial diagnosis came only a year after the loss of her mother-in-law to breast cancer. “I was stunned, scared and angry.”

She remembers how hard it was to tell her husband the news of her breast cancer diagnosis. “I reassured him I would be just fine, but the truth is, I wasn’t sure. I was afraid.” 

Her second diagnosis came at her request for a mammogram, which confirmed her breast cancer had returned. She is an advocate for knowing your normal and listening to yourself when you think something is not right.

Sheila underwent two lumpectomys, removal of lymph nodes, multiple rounds of chemotherapy and ultimately a bilateral mastectomy. She is preparing for Tamoxifen and awaiting two reconstructive surgeries.

“Your first thought may be ‘why me.’ But why NOT you? Your test can be someone’s testimony so you have to live life to the fullest! No regrets here.”

 

Nominated Heroes

LEATTA JOHNSON | OCTOBER EVERYDAY HERO

leatta with carlieThere’s a saying that you can’t stop the waves from coming, but you can learn to surf. Six months ago, a huge wave called breast cancer came crashing down on Leatta Johnson. Spending much of her life on a boat, Leatta was used to weathering storms. But this one was different – it was an invisible threat that she couldn’t prepare for. Nevertheless, Leatta moved into unchartered waters with an optimistic outlook, ready for battle.

Susie Davis, Leatta’s longtime friend and nominator, said that when Leatta was first diagnosed she decided to take the opportunity to “make her mess her message.”

“Rather than drown in her own fears and anxiety, she made a point to stress to others the importance of mammography and early detection,” Susie said. “She made me promise to go have a mammogram.”

Little did Susie know, that promise would save her life.

Susie followed through on her promise to get a mammogram and ended up being diagnosed with breast cancer too. Thanks to Leatta’s prompting, the cancer was found early.

“She saved my life,” Susie said. “She saved it just as if she had rescued me from a burning building. I will forever be grateful for having a friend like her.”

Leatta and Susie have remained close during their battle with breast cancer. “It has been a privilege to take care of her on this journey,” Susie said. “She is normally the one taking care of everyone else!”

Many of Leatta’s other friends shared this sentiment, describing her as their group’s caregiver, mama, therapist, organizer and comforter.

“Leatta is the center of our social circle,” friend Jake Bays said. “She is our anchor.”

That anchor has continued to hold strong – relying on friends, medical treatment and faith to see her through to calmer waters. She has become a hero to many by coming alongside them, encouraging them and helping guide them through the storms of life.

Leatta embodies the title “Everyday Hero.” Rather than looking to herself, she has used her story to help others write more chapters in their own.

 

STEVE AND MARILYN BLETHEN | SEPTEMBER EVERYDAY HERO

Steve  Marilyn BlethenIt’s not uncommon for a husband or wife to face the role of either a cancer patient or caregiver at some point in their lifetime. It is uncommon, however, for each spouse to face both roles for the same disease. Steve and Marilyn Blethen are two of those unique heroes who have both survived and co-survived breast cancer. The story they share is one of hope, strength and faith that they desire to use to encourage and inspire others facing a similar challenge.

In June of 2008, Steve, an avid bicycler, was on his daily ride when he noticed his pulse monitor giving him problems and a pain in his left breast. A visit to the doctor, followed by a biopsy, revealed that Steve had breast cancer. Marilyn was in Ohio at the time caring for her mother who was very ill with cancer. The following month, the Dallas County couple traveled to Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Chicago for Steve to receive surgery.

The day before the operation, Steve and Marilyn met with the surgeon, who asked how they were doing. Marilyn expressed concern for her mother’s declining health, and the surgeon postponed the surgery and arranged travel for the couple to Ohio so they could be with her mother, who passed three days later. Steve’s surgery several weeks later was successful, and Marilyn cared for and supported him as he battled through 36 radiation treatments while working 12 hours a day, seven days a week as an inside adjuster for victims of Hurricane Ike.

CTCA had arranged for him to receive radiation in the location where he was working so that he could continue with his normal schedule. After a strenuous journey, Steve was given the news that there was no evidence of disease.

A few years later in 2012, after an abnormal mammogram, Marilyn was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had planned to travel to Tulsa with Steve for his check up at CTCA at the end of that week, so they called ahead to arrange for Marilyn to be seen there as well. They got her in immediately, and within a week, she was scheduled for Intraoperative Radiation Therapy (IORT). This cutting-edge procedure allowed Marilyn to receive radiation directly into the tumor bed, during her lumpectomy, and immediately undergo reconstruction, eliminating several additional weeks of radiation that would have been necessary with a traditional treatment and the accompanying side effects.

The couple now sees their Oncologist Dr. Jaggernauth together each time they visit CTCA. “The Blethens are a very sweet and down-to-earth couple,” says Dr. Jaggernauth. “They are heroes in their support of each other, their positive attitudes and their will to use their journey with cancer to make a difference in the lives of others battling this disease.”

During and after their treatments, Steve and Marilyn both took advantage of supportive therapies, such as nutrition, naturopathic medicine, mind-body medicine, physical therapy, acupuncture, massage and spiritual support, which made a difference in their overall recovery and healing and helped them maintain their quality of life. They are grateful to continue work, exercise and spending time with their four grandchildren.

This month, Steve will attend Celebrate Life at CTCA, a celebration to mark five years of survival for CTCA patients, and is excited to put his leaf on the survivor tree to celebrate his survivorship. These past five years have brought them four grandchildren. Steve and Marilyn are both thankful that they are here to see them grow up and be a part of their lives.

Through their journey, Steve and Marilyn were blessed with the gift of perspective. Marilyn shared that her cancer helped her realize what her priorities should be in her and put her focus there. She said it also helps you examine the purpose for your life – what have you been put here to do? The words of advice Steve shares with other survivors and caregivers is to “put your faith in God – He will not fail you.”

Steve and Marilyn look forward to making a difference and using their lives to enrich others. Marilyn is passionate about early detection, which is what allowed her to be a candidate for her the unique treatment of IORT. Steve, who discovered his cancer at a later stage and had a longer road to recovery than Marilyn, is passionate about awareness for men about breast cancer. “Men need to get screened, and they don’t do it,” says Steve.

They and their family have been involved in various community events, with their daughters running in the Komen Dallas Race for the Cure each year to celebrate their survivorship. They are endeavoring to get more involved, and are both signed up to run the Komen Dallas Race for the Cure for the first time this year.

“I am almost grateful for the cancer because of the experience we’ve had and the perspective it’s given us. Our eyes have been opened to the way medicine should be practiced, and I feel very sad to hear about what a hard time so many other have with their care,” says Marilyn. “We feel very grateful to have had the experience we’ve had and want to offer hope to other individuals battling cancer.”

GENEA FANE | AUGUST EVERYDAY HERO

Genea Fane

If you ask a random group of people “who is your hero,” odds are you will get a large portion that answer “my mom.” Moms are often the heroes in our lives – giving selflessly to their families, sheltering us from harm, building us up when we are down.  But take a look at the Fane family, and it’s the mom naming her daughter a hero.

Marcella Fane was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, her daughter Genea’s senior year of high school. Even though Genea was in the throes of her senior year and juggling an after-school job, she stepped up when her mom needed her most.

“I was amazed that the child I raised had turned into a lady now taking care of me, all while continuing to finish her senior year,” Marcella said. “She fed me, changed my bandages and helped dress me every morning, afternoon and evening.”

Having moved to Dallas on their own, Marcella and Genea solely relied on each other to get by day to day. And now that Marcella was sick, Genea took responsibility for both of them. “We are all we got,” Marcella said. “But I learned through this that sometimes, that’s all you need.”

Marcella boasts that Genea not only became her caretaker, but that she became her strength through her breast cancer journey. “She did not cry,” Marcella said. “She rose to the occasion and became a fierce woman. She showed me what courage was.”

Thanks, in part, to Genea’s strength, Marcella has won her battle with breast cancer. She looks back on the journey as one that not only taught her about life, but also showed her the strength of her daughter and drew them closer as friends.

“I am forever grateful to her for her courage, love and selfless devotion to me during one of the scariest moments in my life,” Marcella said. “She is my rock and I am so proud of the woman she has become.”

BRENDA STRINGER | JULY EVERYDAY HERO

Brenda Stringer PicHeroes come from all walks of life – they have different faces, their stories are one of a kind and their acts of heroism are equally as unique. Brenda Stringer, a nine year breast cancer survivor, is among the quieter of heroes. She fights breast cancer every day with a constant yet calm ferocity.

Brenda was two weeks away from celebrating her 10 year anniversary with her husband, Tommy, when he passed away suddenly from a heart attack. She was diagnosed with breast cancer only four months later.

After life dealt her such a tough hand, Brenda could have easily thrown her hands up in defeat. But she chose to step up and become a hero.

Brenda started raising funds for the Komen Dallas Race for the Cure by making small pink ribbons for donations. Throughout Race season, everyone in her office, including the security guards, could be seen proudly sporting the pink creations.

Brenda’s co-worker, nominator and fellow breast cancer survivor, Katherine Rogers, said Brenda never fails to be positive, and she spreads that infectious optimism throughout their office. “She pushes and prods us so we keep fighting,” Katherine said.

In the past five years, Brenda’s “pushing and prodding” has helped her raise more than $4,000 and has led her team to raise nearly $100,000 in the fight against breast cancer. Brenda’s success in fundraising is a direct result of her passion for the cause and willingness to use every resource, no matter how small, to make a positive impact in the community.

Brenda is not only a hero in her fundraising efforts, but also in her support of others battling breast cancer. When Katherine was diagnosed in 2009, she said she found encouragement in fighting alongside Brenda. “She has been with me the whole time – fighting, raising money and fighting some more,” Katherine said.

In 2006, Brenda went country dancing with some friends and met Waymon, a guy she danced with all night. The next day, he called her and said he wanted to see her again. She told him that she had no hair, was battling cancer and wasn’t even sure she was going to be here tomorrow. Waymon’s response was, “What’s your point?” The two were married in 2012.

Sadly, Waymon unexpectedly passed in 2014. Though Brenda was devastated, she has held her head high and remains an encouragement to others. “Brenda continues to be our rock,” Katherine said. “She supports the cause stronger than most people.”

Brenda proves that you don’t have to a rocket scientist, a celebrity or a millionaire to be an Everyday Hero. You just have to give what you can. Because even a small pink ribbon can spread hope or save a life.

DR. MARY BRIAN | JUNE EVERYDAY HERO

DrMaryBrian_websiteDr. Mary Brian specializes in breast surgery. Her accomplishments as a medical professional would impress even the most senior surgeons. However, it’s more than her skills as a surgeon that have made her an Everyday Hero in the eyes of her patients. It’s the relationship she forms with each woman she treats that make her a hero, as she plays an invaluable role in their journey of survival and recovery.

Dr. Brian’s nominator, Susan Thomsen, says Dr. Brian saved her life. “When I met with her after my diagnosis she presented me with my options. Right away, the tone of her voice and confidence in her demeanor was enough to help me make the decision to have a double mastectomy,” Susan said.

Dr. Brian not only had a hand in Susan’s battle with breast cancer, but also comforted her when Susan’s daughter Jennifer had a suspicious lump in her breast. “It is a tremendous blessing for both me and my family to be connected with such a wonderful person,” Susan said, “For me, just hearing her voice assures me that everything will be okay.”

Dr. Brian also treated Margaret Steele, an Everyday Hero honored this Race season for her battle with breast cancer. Margaret said Dr. Brian’s patience and guidance throughout the process were fabulous. “She was able to adapt to my needs quickly. I’m a ‘just the facts’ type of person, which she accommodated all while maintaining a nurturing approach,” Margaret said.

Like both of these women, many would say that Dr. Brian is their “first stop” with any breast health concerns. Her quiet confidence and nurturing spirit have greatly impacted the lives around her, earning her the title “Everyday Hero.”