Joann Still radiated in the glow of the October sun Saturday during the Cancer Walk, a glow reflected in the faces of the cancer survivors joining for a day on the square in Broken Bow, and in the faces of families and friends there to support the activity.
October’s annual Cancer Walk celebrates life, as it also calls attention to those who are tormented by the disease and raises money for cancer research. In Broken Bow, the walk is organized by the Breast Cancer Support Group, an organization started by Still in 2005, one year after her own diagnosis, a group that means more than anyone will ever know, she says.
“It’s not about me she says,” pointing in the direction of the other survivors, “it’s about them,” she says as she quietly slips over and gives her mom a kiss.
“Let me introduce you our group’s oldest breast cancer survivor, Erma Douglas,” she said, “my mother.”
The two share a common bond that goes beyond the genetic influences of mother - daughter, both are breast cancer survivors.
Joann was diagnosed in 2004 and her mother was diagnosed in 1940. For Erma, the news came shortly after she was married. She was 90 years old last June.
“I survived because the good Lord took care of me,” Erma said.
“Treatments are so much more promising today. They know so much more, women watch for it and the disease is caught so much earlier,” she said. Back in 1940, they didn’t always know what they were seeing.
Ula Holt was in the shower when she discovered a lump that turned out to be cancerous.
“I couldn't get dressed fast enough to get to the doctor,” she said. When the diagnosis came in, she had a conference call with her children and the decisions were made fast. Her children, she said, were in shock, but said they would agree with any decision she made.
“They were my wheels,” she said. To the best of her knowledge there had not been any cancer in her family.
Her advice? Don’t put off making the decisions, putting off the decisions won’t make it go away, and be alert to what is going on in your own body.
“I hadn’t had a mammogram in seven years. Now I get one every year.”
Marilyn Girardin said she was numb when she received the news. She was alone and the doctors were blunt. They needed to be.
“Darlene Bigbee was the nurse. She got a hold of me and hugged me, and that was it,” she said.
She said she didn’t worry about the steps, she just said ... let’s do this ... let’s get this over with.
“I trusted in the doctors. I had a great support system. My daughter came home for the surgery, and Jim was just great. I also had two or three nurses who had gone through it before, and that was a great help.”
Each of the survivors talked about the support group being not just helpful and nice, but critical to the healing process.
Deb Bryner was in the middle of changing occupations when cancer came her way. She and her husband, Dwain, had just sold their landscaping equipment and he was going to work for Frito Lay.
Deb rattles the date with as much conviction as most do with their birthdays ... July 20, 2004.
“I thought from the moment I heard, I’m a survivor, I can do this, and then it hits you like a ton of bricks,” she said.
She doesn’t mince words when it comes to offering advice for anyone diagnosed with cancer ...
“Gather all of the information you can, but not off the Internet chat sites. Go to the survivors for information and to the medical community. Find someone who has been through it,” she said.
“Cancer is as much of an emotional disease as it is a physical disease. Your emotional state plays a big part.”
She says she is thankful for her husband, for her family, and for the support group she calls her friends.
“The walk isn’t just about breast cancer,” said Still, “It’s about all types of cancers. The money raised goes toward cancer research.”
This year, the support group has raised, so far, approximately $12,000.
“We usually raise between $4,000 and $5,000,” she said, nearly giddy at what they’ve been able to gather ...I’m thrilled, and I’m thankful for everyone who played a part in its success.”
Cancer is one of those things that touches each of us in some way.