Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Honoring courageous women...

The battle against breast cancer is, in many ways, a lonely one. Only the person who faces the diagnosis must summon the courage to go through treatment, setbacks and challenges. But for the very lucky ones, there is a whole army of supporters there to walk with them, to offer encouragement and prayers and daily acts of kindness.

Never was this more evident to me than when I began to read through some of the entries to a contest on my website. Last month (and again this month and in February) I've offered a $100 donation to Susan G. Komen For the Cure in honor of a survivor or in memory of a loved one who lost the fight against breast cancer. Though there was only one randomly-selected winner from the hundreds entered, there were too many heartfelt comments to be ignored.

So, today and over the course of the next couple of weeks, I'd like to share some of the stories submitted. Even in a very few words, people were able to convey so much about their heartache, their sense of loss and their respect for those they wished to honor. For me, they're a testament to the powerful bonds between women and to the strength of those who've waged this battle. I'll use only first names here in the interest of privacy, but to all of you who entered I thank you for telling me about these wonderful people.

P.J., for example, wrote about her cousin Janet who "passed away from COPD in September. Janet fought many health obstacles throughout her 83 years. In 1980's she fought and survived breast cancer. She was a survivor in more ways than anyone will ever know. I still miss her..."

Sandra wrote of Nancy, "my best friend, who at 38 years old, lost her battle to cancer."

Another wrote, "I am a breast cancer survivor, but I would like to honor a very dear friend who died of breast cancer four years ago. (Frances) was a brave and loving woman. She changed many lives through her battle, including mine. I could not have dealt with the knowledge that I had breast cancer if it hadn't been for the strength and courage Frances possessed."

Kandi tells of "Freda, my brave friend, who is currently battling breast cancer. She uses her great sense of humor and the love of her large family -- sons, daughter, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, and, of course, her devoted husband -- to optimistically face her greatest fight."

A daughter, Carmen, writes of her mother, Gladys, "She was my mother, my guardian, my best friend. It's been ten years but sometimes I still reach to give her a call. I have a really good friend who has had a reccurence, another who just got diagnosed and another who has been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. It's a horrible disease. Here's to a cure!"

Another Sandra asked to honor two people. "First, my grandmother Alice. Although she's been gone many years now and she did not pass away because of the cancer, she's the first and so far only one in our family that has gone through it. She had a mastectomy and lived a long life afterwards, passing away in 1987, nearly 20 years after her triumph over the cancer. Second is my long-time friend, Mary...She was diagnosed approximately 10 years ago, so she's well past the five-year stage. She is now married and going strong. Another triumphant story!"

This is just the beginning. I hope the stories will touch you. There are many more to come. And in the meantime, if you didn't enter last month's contest and have someone you'd like honored with a donation to the Susan G. Komen foundation, please go to www.sherrylwoods.com and click on "Contest." There's also information there on how you can make your own contribution, no matter how large or small, to aid in this fight that affects us all -- whether we've faced the diagnosis ourselves or dealt with its effects on a friend or loved one. Banding together, there's nothing women can't do, including curing this terrible disease.

Sherryl Woods

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