Georgia CORE is seeking portraits of Georgia’s diverse group of Cancer Survivors for this page, “Survivors’ Voices.” We have listed a few questions on the submission page to stimulate your thinking about sharing your personal experience.
We would greatly appreciate it if you can also provide a photograph. Please note that submission of your story includes your permission to have your story published on “Survivors’ Voices” and possibly featured in print or online media.
Blessed by the Grace of God
Kim Dailey is an ultrasound technologist for an Obstetrics and Gynecology practice in Augusta, so she can tell you a lot of facts about breast cancer. Did you know that
· One in four breast cancers aren’t detected by mammograms
· After age 50, your chances of getting breast cancer increase.
· Only 10 percent of breast cancers are related to family history.
· Only 1 in 6 lumps are cancerous.
But, Kim didn’t learn these facts in school; she learned them through her personal experience as a breast cancer patient. “I was the last person you would expect to have breast cancer, I was under 50, had no family history of breast cancer, am a non-smoker, and my mammogram was normal,” she says. The only risk factor she had was not having had children.
Arthur Blank advises fellow survivors to find purpose and stay focused
In December 2015, I was diagnosed with a treatable form of prostate cancer. Soon after the diagnosis I chose an aggressive treatment that included surgery. As we all know, there is no fool- proof way to prevent cancer; I’ve never missed an annual physical, I have maintained a healthy diet and I have consistently exercised all my life – yet, I still had cancer. My first thought after receiving the news was my family. After being diagnosed, before treatment, telling my family was the hardest part. Family is the most important thing in my life, and protecting them from any hardship and pain is my life’s purpose.
Larry Robinson: Time for a cure
I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in February 2015, after experiencing a back injury. I was just picking up my lawn mower , which I’d done many times before, and two of my vertebrae collapsed on each other. The pain was excruciating, and it took the doctors awhile to determine what had happened. I had back surgery in August 2014 to repair that injury and returned to work. A bone biopsy was done, no cancer was detected, but a bone density test revealed that I had osteoporosis. Because my bones were so brittle, the surgeon could only repair one. When I went for my yearly physical in March, 2015, my blood test showed high protein levels. I was then referred to Northside Cancer Center for further testing. The results confirmed Multiple Myeloma. I had no family history with this cancer.
Gerriann Kennedy: CANCER SURVIVOR LEARNED TO FLOURISH
When my 2-year-old elbowed me in my left breast, she may have saved my life. I put my hand there to ease the pain and felt a lump. I was 31 and had no family history of breast cancer. The next two weeks were full of uncertainty, fear and bad news. First, my husband lost his job; then, I was diagnosed with stage 3A HER2+ breast cancer. The cancer was already the size of a tennis ball and was also found in seven lymph nodes. My husband, David, and I weren’t sure how we were going to make it. Let’s just say, it changed our lives forever.
TeMaya Eatmon: PATIENT NAVIGATOR HELPED TEMAYA TO “BRING YOUR BRAVE”
TeMaya Eatmon was living the dream. At age 36, she had a great job. She got married in July 2012 and honeymooned in St. Lucia. And two months later, when she went in for her annual gynecological exam concerned about discharge from her breast, she learned it was because she was 6 weeks pregnant.
But the fairy tale soon went desperately wrong. The baby’s development was behind schedule, and pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Because the discharge from her breast began to have some blood in it, she was sent immediately to the Breast Center. The good news was that the biopsy showed the lump was benign.
Tonya Echols Cole: RADIATION ONCOLOGIST FIGHTS HER OWN CANCER DIAGNOSIS
Tonya Echols Cole, M.D., is a board certified radiation oncologist, a wife and a mother to four-year-old twin girls. As a doctor who treated cancer patients for almost 20 years, cancer was--and still is--her business. In 2004, at age 46, it also became her diagnosis, when she learned she had Stage II triple negative breast cancer. She found out that she carried a hereditary gene, which required her to have a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. Her treatment also involved 7 months of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery to have her ovaries removed.
Sean Dever: I BEAT CANCER, SO IN MY MIND, I CAN BEAT ANYTHING
Sean Dever, 21, is in his junior year at Young Harris College majoring in business and public policy with a minor in sports studies. Because sports has always been central to his life, it’s not surprising that he hopes to become a Coach one day; he hopes to find a graduate assistant coaching job after graduation. Ever since he picked up a lacrosse stick in 4th grade, his dream was to play the game in college. And today he is a member of the Young Harris Lacrosse team.
Making that dream come true would require hard work, dedication and determination for any young man. But, Sean’s journey from his summer lacrosse camp at Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Roswell a decade ago was particularly arduous. Playing against one of his childhood friends, Sean fell when their legs got tangled. Concerned about a resulting limp, Sean’s mother took him to get an X-ray and then an MRI. On July 11, 2007 his life changed forever. Sean was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer found most often in children and teens, in his left femur, or thighbone.
Khamsay Chanthasaly: FACING CANCER IS COMPLICATED BY LANGUAGE & FINANCIAL BARRIERS
Imagine living in a foreign country, where you don’t speak or understand the language, and you are barely meeting your mortgage and other living expenses, and then you get sick. So sick that you can’t work, and you can’t afford to pay for the medical bills.
This is what Khamsay Chanthasaly, who came to the US from Laos, is experiencing. In December 2015, he was diagnosed with a rare case of breast cancer in men. It started on Christmas Eve, when he was admitted to hospital following an unbearable pain in his back and legs. After surgery and radiotherapy, he became so weak that he was unable to continue his job.
LONG-TIME SURVIVOR BECOMES INVOLVED ADVOCATE
“Cancer “ was always a significant and serious medical term to me – but one that didn’t have any medical impact on my family.
In the 1980’s, while living in Winston-Salem, NC, a dear friend in her early 30s with two young chidren was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Her family asked and I agreed to take her to her chemotherapy on occasion, so that her husband wouldn’t miss work.
In those days, patient support, beyond one’s doctors and nurses, fell solely to the patient’s family and friends. This was very stressful. Too often, the family was emotionally drained, lacked the background to know what questions to ask, and often traveled great distances, with no place to rest, during the loved one’s hospital care and treatment.
Peggy Ward: A GOOD ATTITUDE AND PRAYER PULLED PEGGY THROUGH
Peggy Ward was in great shape for a 79-year-old: very active and healthy. She was never sick, never had surgery, never even broke a bone. But three years ago that all changed when the severe pain in her right side that her local gynecologist couldn’t diagnose turned out to be Stage 3 ovarian cancer.
She knew something was wrong: she couldn’t eat, was losing weight, felt tired and weak. Her general practitioner said it was an abscess in her stomach. Once it was drained, she told him she wanted him to do what it takes to find out what was wrong. The CAT scan came back with the diagnosis she feared and she had to leave her hometown to find a specialist that could help her. ”I knew it was cancer. Although genetic testing showed no link, my mother died of ovarian cancer at age 58, my younger sister died of ovarian cancer when she was 61, and I’ve lost aunts and cousins to the disease,” she said.
Mary Brown: HELPING OTHERS, CELEBRATING LIFE EVERY DAY
Helping people with cancer has become Mary Brown’s life mission.
You can see it in her home, where she has a Cancer Christmas tree year-round. In her bathroom, which is decorated in pink. With the pin she wears every day – pink, gold or silver—the Avon Breast cancer pin. You can hear it when she speaks before organizations and church groups about cancer awareness. When she takes newly diagnosed patients under her wing for a year to give them someone to talk to, pray with, share their thoughts. And you can experience it in April or October when she works on events to raise money for Horizons Community Solutions, such as the Divas & Desserts event at the Albany Civic Center. Or the Albany area Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society. Or the Night for Hope for Horizons.
Mary also volunteers for Phoebe Putney Medical Center, where in October, 1998, she went into congestive heart failure while undergoing a biopsy for the lump she felt in her breast. When she finally became conscious at the end of that week, she was in for another shock: the biopsy had been positive, she had cancer; more specifically IDC, invasive or infiltrating ductal carcinoma.
Howard Young: SURVIVING THE MOST LIFE-THREATENING CANCER TO RAISE AWARNESS AND FUNDS FOR PANCREATIC CANCER RESEARCH
Howard Young has defied the odds by surviving pancreatic cancer. He’s lived to walk two daughters down the aisle at their weddings, welcome a new grandchild, and celebrate many family and friend’s birthdays, graduations, and anniversaries.
But he wants this victory to be more. He wants a cure. He wants to help others with the same diagnosis. So, he started a support group at his church. He became active in PanCAN, a national pancreatic cancer support group, and he’s shared his story to give others hope: from one-on-one discussions to appearing with Katie Couric on Stand Up To Cancer. “I want to provide hope to others that someone can have Stage 4 pancreatic cancer three times and still recover and lead a normal life,” he says.
Melissa Davenhall: CANCER DIAGNOSIS AFFECTS MENTAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH
You don’t see many people who are undergoing cancer treatment in Jazzercise classes. So, petite Melissa Davenhall stood out. She’s been jazzercising since 1980 and she wasn’t going to let chemotherapy stop her. It’s now 3 ½ years since her ovarian cancer diagnosis, and despite all she’s been through, she’s still dancing.
Larry Koslow: DIAGNOSIS BY CHANCE; TREATMENT WITH PURPOSE
Sometimes, cancer comes without any warning. There are no symptoms; no understanding of the cause; and the diagnosis is made by chance. That happened to Larry Koslow. Twice.
In 2000, he and his wife, Keri, were watching their son Evan at a cross-country track competition near their home in New Jersey and he suffered excruciating pain that required an immediate trip to the Emergency Room. The diagnosis: diverticulitis.
Janice McKenzie-Crayton: EXECUTIVE'S MESSAGE: TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR CARE
Janice McKenzie-Crayton is a take-charge type of person. She’s been President and Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta since 1992. So, when it comes to her personal health, it’s not surprising that she is very proactive in her care. She never just accepts one person’s opinion, but rather talks to people she trusts, gathers information, and determines the best course of action. That game plan served her well as she fought and survived breast cancer three times since 1996.
Joey Tripp: SOCIAL ISOLATION HAD AN IMPACT ON CHILDHOOD CANCER SURVIVOR
Joey Tripp, 32, has received more than his fair share of honors. He graduated with honors and was a “Senior Superlative” at Dodge County High School in Eastman, near his hometown of Yonkers. In 2003, he received the National Young Adult Volunteer of the Year from the American Healthcare Association. While attending Middle Georgia State College for his Associates degree in Science, he received the 2006 Service and Leadership Award. Working towards his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Georgia Southern University, he was named “Volunteer of the Year,” having donated 1,309 hours of his time, and he was editor of the GSC Core newspaper. The first in his family to attend The University of Georgia and earn a graduate degree, Joey was once again recognized for his involvement: he was selected for the prestigious UGA Graduate School’s Emerging Leader’s Program, and was named a UGA “Amazing Student.”
Tom Willner: CANCER’S IMPACT ON FERTILITY A CONCERN FOR YOUNG SURVIVORS
Everyone has a different way of dealing with life’s difficulties. For Tom Willner, whose avocation is music and songwriting, it was a musical. As he was facing surgery for testicular cancer, he funneled his energies into developing the characters and song titles, and ultimately the words and music for “Turning Thirty, the Musical.” The production reflects his own cancer journey: facing surgery and its potential impact on fertility.
Gail McCray: SISTERS TEAM UP TO FIGHT MULTIPLE MYELOMA
Gail G. McCray is a health care professional whose job is teaching community health education. So, it’s not surprising that when it came to her own health issues, she knew exactly where to go to get information. Or that she continues to stay informed so that she can be a partner with her health care providers in making health care decisions.
WORKING THROUGH CANCER, PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY
Edye Mahaffey felt fine the day she was told she had breast cancer. It was the medicine that she had to take that made her feel and look sick. Oh, yes, and the bald head, which makes people assume that something’s wrong.
She was only 44, and although genetic tests didn’t point to a “cancer” gene, her mother and two aunts all are breast cancer survivors. So, she had an idea of what the journey might include. For her it was 6 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by double mastectomy, and more chemotherapy after. And later, immunotherapy, an IV drip that she had administered for a year.
Diane Weldon: DON'T KEEP IT A SECRET
Diane Weldon is normally a very private person. And very independent. What she learned from having breast cancer is how much she needs other people. “Having cancer is too big to handle by yourself, you need others.” And when she shared her situation, others responded.
They offered to mow her lawn. Bring her dinner. Shop for food. One of her work colleagues who had throat cancer gave her tips on using the aloe plant for skin burns. And bought her an acupressure wristband to help stave off nausea. And she can talk for hours about what Summit Quest did for her and her daughter, Zeena. “They give such strength, hope and service to children and families affected by cancer,” she says, “they are like family to us now.”
Claire Thevenot: SURVIVING AND THRIVING DESPITE CANCER DIAGNOSIS
Did you know that if you have “dense” breasts….made up of more fat than fibrous or glandular tissue…that you are six times more likely to develop breast cancer and that it is much harder for mammograms to detect whether or not you have the disease? Claire Thevenot, who is an oncology certified nurse who has worked in the cancer field for seven years learned that lesson the hard way: only months after having a negative mammogram, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
Chris Parker: UNDERSTANDING WHAT SURVIVORSHIP MEANS
“Once you have had the cancer diagnosis, you don’t go through any other health care issue—a headache, a fever, a virus – without the prospect of another diagnosis of cancer hanging over your head,” says Chris Parker.
He knows that mostly from his personal experience as a prostate cancer survivor, though he has also been a caregiver to family members with cancer and a provider of health care: a trained family physician working with underserved and faith-based organizations. He is a Masters of Public Health graduate of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and is the Director of Population and Global Health at the Georgia Health Policy Center. Among his many projects is directing strategic planning for Georgia’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Consortium and facilitating its Steering Team.
Don Henderson and Cathy Schmidt: PATIENT AND CAREGIVER MAKE PRO-ACTIVE TEAM
While Don Henderson was going through his treatment for prostate cancer, he was an “unhappy camper,” says his wife, Cathy Schmidt. She admits being a bit of a Pollyanna, always so optimistic about Don having “the most curable cancer on the planet.” But Don needed time to process having cancer and empathy for the difficulties he was facing.
Byron Rosenstein: PHYSICAL EXAMS CRUCIAL IN DETECTING CANCER
Dr. Byron Rosenstein is an orthopedic surgeon who sees doctors every working day. But for nearly 15 years, he didn’t go to see a doctor for his own personal health. Luckily, his wife, Debra, pressed him to go as a birthday gift to her. Through palpation - an examination using his hands – the primary care doctor felt a goiter: a swelling of the neck resulting from enlargement of the thyroid gland. That cyst was benign, but as part of the routine lab testing, a nodule behind it was found to be cancerous.
Tiah Tomlin: THE HARDEST THING I EVER HAD TO FACE IN MY LIFE
It started out as an amazing summer in 2015, everything in my life was going great…or so I thought. I was looking forward to traveling the world, hanging out with friends at summer concerts and just enjoying life.
I’d just returned after a few days in Montego Bay with awesome friends. We ate well, laughed until our sides hurt, soaked up the sun, partied, and relaxed. But it was time to get back to the grind. My business partner and I had just announced our partnership with the Veterans Empowerment Organization and the American Cancer Society to raise awareness for Prostate cancer and collect suits for veterans via our fun run event called the “5K Suit Run™.” We had work to do. It was time to help save some lives; but little did I know then that one of them would be my own.
Frank Catroneo: Educating Men Through the Georgia Prostate Cancer Coalition
In August 2006, my wife and I and 12 close friends went on a two-week European cruise for my 60th birthday. When we returned home, my wife surprised me with a lifelong dream: she bought me a brand new 2007 Corvette. I had recently gone into semi-retirement, so I was looking forward to enjoying my Baby Boomer years. Life was great.
All my life, I have taken care of my health. I’ve had annual physicals since I was 30-years-old. I’ve been an avid jogger since I was in my 20’s. I lifted weights; mountain biked and played tennis. I was the picture of health: I was never a patient in a hospital; never had a broken bone; in fact, I never even had a cavity! But, that year, when I had my annual physical, my PSA was 3.5. Although that is still in the normal range, since it had elevated from a 2.3 in the last 2 years, my doctor suggested I see a urologist. I wasn’t really concerned; after all, I was a healthy guy. I had no symptoms, no pain, no problems. The urologist suggested a biopsy and a few days later, I called for the results. When he told me I had cancer, I fell to my knees. I was in complete shock.
Johnetta Goolsby: Listen to your body, go to the doctor, get checked out
At 22, Johnetta Goolsby was studying to become a phlebotomist and was a busy mom to her then 2-year-old daughter, Payten. When she felt pain in her breast, she did a self-exam and found a lump. So, she went to the doctor with what was thought to be a breast infection. When the symptoms persisted, she underwent a biopsy. The diagnosis was stunning. She had breast cancer.
Amelia Ballard: PAYING IT FORWARD, WITH SPECIAL COMPASSION FOR CANCER PATIENTS
Amelia Ballard was born in 1992. When she was only 17-months-old, she spiked a 104 F fever, and was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Her parents, who are from Macon, brought her to the AFLAC Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for treatment. She was hospitalized for more than two years, and then relapsed at 3 years old.
Rebecca Palpant-Shimkets: ENCOURAGING CANCER SURVIVORS TO RECOGNIZE THE SIGNS OF DEPRESSION
Rosalynn Carter has long been an advocate for stigma reduction in the field of mental health. She wants the “walls of secrecy and shame” around mental health issues to tumble, in much the same way as they have for breast cancer.
Rebecca Palpant Shimkets works with the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism; so, her career goals include accurate portrayal of mental illnesses in the media, stigma reduction, and social inclusion.
Her personal and professional life touched each other as she learned the hard way of the link between cancer and clinical depression. Ironically, it came after her thyroid cancer treatment was completed, a time when society expected her to be celebrating and stepping back into life with new vigor and appreciation for each day. Instead, she found herself walking through days and months of reflecting on the pain and suffering experienced during treatment and seeking answers to the meaning of her existence.
Bobbie Menneg: SUPPORT GROUP FRIENDS LIFT EACH OTHER UP and “GET” WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH
Six years ago, I went to a support group after completing my treatment for triple negative breast cancer. Through our “Circle” at Gwinnett Medical Center, I made great friendships. So much so that today, I lead the group. We have people with all types of cancer, not only breast, but colon, lung, ovarian, pancreatic and lymphoma cancers. We constantly lift each other up when we have bad days and especially love to celebrate our milestones. We "Get It"!
Brent Weatherly: BATTLING COLON CANCER WITH FAITH, FRIENDS & FAMILY SUPPORT
The American Cancer Society recommends that men and women at average risk for colon cancer get a colonoscopy starting at age 50. But at age 43, Brent Weatherly of Bishop was experiencing symptoms that he assumed were caused by an ulcer, so the gastroenterologist he visited did a colonoscopy. Unfortunately, it found an abnormally shaped ball attached to the lining of the bowel, which later proved to be colon cancer. And he’s been fighting the battle ever since. “Ultimately, it seems that cancer has a firm hold in my body, though at this point much of it is too small to be seen by current imaging,” Brent says.
Monica Perez: BEING FIT HELPS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST CANCER
Monica Perez is passionate about fitness. She ran track and field in junior high and high school, started weight training in 1998, and began competing in Figure competitions – a physique-exhibition event – in 2007.
But at the end of 2013, despite her very healthy lifestyle, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL), an aggressive type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), cancer that develops from lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.
John Whetstone: ON A MISSION TO ADVOCATE FOR EARLY DETECTION OF PROSTATE CANCER
In November, 2005, at age 62, I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer (PC). My father was diagnosed with PC at age 80, but lived another 3 years and died of other natural causes. All my life I have taken care of my health. I was a picture of good health. I had recently gone into semi-retirement (only 40 hours per week), and I was looking forward to retirement. Life was great.
Then the Urologist told me I had Prostate cancer. I was in shock and didn’t hear anything else he said. I am a very positive person but in my mind it felt like a death sentence. A few weeks back, I was looking forward to enjoying retirement with my wife, children, and grandchild…life was great ….and then my dreams went down the drain. The doctor assured me that wasn’t the case.
Corinna Murray: FACING CANCER WITH LOVE AND TRUST RATHER THAN FEAR AND ANGER
On the evening of November 11, 2010, my youngest son probably saved my life. He was stoically recovering from a painful procedure to correct a malformed rib cage. While probing his ribs he asked me what normal ribs felt like. I started to feel my upper ribs. To my surprise, which quickly turned to horror, I found a large mass at the top of my left breast. I had not had a mammogram in almost three years. Not only was it time-consuming and uncomfortable, I arrogantly believed I was immune to cancer. I had been a vegetarian for years, a daily exercise addict, and had no family history of cancer. I was quickly and profoundly humbled the next day when my doctors confirmed my fears.
Colleen Parker: IT’S OKAY TO FEEL SORRY FOR YOURSELF AND CRY EVERY NOW AND THEN
In August 2015, Colleen Parker of Duluth gave her mother, Virginia Collins, the best birthday present ever. She was able to tell her that she was cancer free. That was about a year after Colleen was diagnosed with Stage 4 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in her left breast, three lymph nodes and her liver. The road getting there was rough, but she kept a very positive attitude throughout.
Debra Sharker: LEND A HAND AND LEND A VOICE TO CANCER SURVIVOR AWARENESS
In 2010, at age 53, I was diagnosed with Stage 2 invasive breast cancer. I was single and had no children. It was a very stressful time. My father had a stroke while I was in the hospital and my mom was going downhill from severe rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. My sisters had their hands full and couldn’t be with me. So, I turned to my family of girlfriends, and they were incredible. They came from all over to help. My best friend rarely left my side. My chosen family saved the day, being there for me as I went through a mastectomy and chemotherapy, and reconstruction that failed again and again.
Cindy Jaret: ENCOURAGING OTHERS TO TAKE CHARGE OF THEIR HEALTH
It was 1994; I was 42, a wife and mother of two young children. I was on the phone with my cousin; my husband was across the country for work and my children were asleep. I said, “You know, I’ve been having this pain in my left breast; I know most people don’t experience pain with cancer, but I should probably go to the doctor and have it checked out.’ She responded emphatically, “You should; call tomorrow.’” And I did.
Even though my husband was flying back the next day, I didn’t wait; I got into the doctor’s office right away and the whirlwind began. The doctor found a sizeable lump- Stage 2 breast cancer - in my right breast, not the one that had pain. What followed was awful. I was more scared than I had ever been in my life.
Mary Ann Hodnett: There's life after cancer. You are not alone.
Mary Ann Hodnett is a testimony to perseverance, dedication and having a passion for appreciating life. The year 2010 was a rough one for her family. Her husband lost his job in September 2009, and her father passed away in May of 2010. A few months later, her work partnership dissolved, and her COBRA insurance was slated to end in December. Then, the biggest hurdle hit. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in November.
Susan McLendon: Too busy
We’ve all been there – too busy to listen to what our bodies are telling us. In 2003, Susan McLendon was too busy; she was in graduate school and taking care of family members that were sick. So, when she noticed some breast changes, she initially ignored them.