STEUBENVILLE - The life-changing enemy that is cancer, according to Donna Minor of Steubenville, involves "a multitude of emotions, fears, medical problems and a hundred or more memorable events."
On Wednesday afternoon as part of her survivor's story at the 16th-annual Ohio Mammography Day wreath ceremony, Minor elected to share three "poignant memories" that emerged from her cancer journey.
Organized by the Women In Action Against Cancer Coalition, the event at the Fort Steuben Mall included selections by Edison High School's a capella choir under the direction of Dani Carroll; proclamations from the county and city by Commissioner Tom Graham and Mayor Domenick Mucci, respectively; the presentation of roses to survivors by Grace Abernethy, a three-time survivor herself; an overview of WIAACC; and a status report on breast cancer in Jefferson County.
Janice R. Kiaski
THEY’RE CHAMPIONS — Wednesday’s Ohio Mammography Day wreath ceremony at the Fort Steuben Mall was followed by a first-time “Champions Ceremony” where the Women In Action Against Cancer Coalition acknowledged supporters who have aided the coalition in it efforts to provide financial assistance to women needing cancer screenings through its Poker Run for Life project. The coalition presented a pink champion boxing glove award in honor of Rick Diequez, Scott Bornyk, the Hess Corp., the Pamela Shoemaker Foundation and Riesbeck’s. With Judy Manfred, coalition chairman, fifth from left, are, from left, Alice Gotschall, mother of the late Pamela Shoemaker and foundation member; Diequez, who started a poker run; Carlene Horner, who coordinates Diequez’s poker run; Sandy Gotschall, Shoemaker’s sister and foundation member; Scott Bornyk, whose one-time poker run provided funds for the first time to the coalition; Joaquin Martinez, operations manager, Hess Corp.; and Steve Petrella, assistant manager, Riesbeck’s.
The observance where coalition Chairman Judy Manfred served as master of ceremonies also included something new - a "Champions Ceremony," with pink boxing glove awards presented in honor of those who have elevated WIAACC from its initial education and support offerings to also being a provider of breast and cervical cancer screenings, diagnosis and treatment.
"Today I have been breast cancer free five years and 27 days," Minor said to a burst of applause, explaining that was especially good given the cancer she had had rendered her unable to take follow-up medicines.
"I am presently beating some odds," she said, noting that since 2007, she has had a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation, regular mammograms, sonograms, eight breast MRIs and four additional biopsies.
"I do glow in the dark," quipped the retired high school teacher of 40 years at Cadiz and Indian Creek who said teaching, deep love of family, community commitment and a passion for education, the arts and travel made her unable to "have time for breast cancer, had breast cancer had time for me. Breast cancer doesn't care what you do or what you want."
Minor's breast cancer came on the heels of earlier cancer experiences, including melanoma. "None of them are related, so I just assumed that I had met my lifetime cancer quota. Not so," Minor said.
To share all that occurs in a person's cancer journey is a story too long, according to Minor, who shared instead three poignant memories: telling her sons she had breast cancer and the evening she lost her hair, a time of a "major meltdown" tempered later by a husband's humor of savings realized on hair products.
Memory three was when Minor, then very ill, recalled how her non-cleaning husband, John, had used two jugs of Chlorox to clean their bedroom bathroom, leaving her to fear a next-day headline, she joked, that would announce her demise from a cleaning product, not cancer.
"A person's life is composed of events, responses to those events and memories of those events. Challenges good or bad are inevitable," Minor said. "I am ashamed to admit that as a cancer survivor I do not greet each day with a seize-the-day attitude. Some mornings, yes; others no. I do embrace God, love, nature and opportunity, but as a realist I cannot develop the mindset that every day is a holiday. As a realist I know bad things happen to good people. It's just the way it is," said Minor, who described herself as blessed to have wonderful parents, her husband, sons and a granddaughter.
"All people's lives are about what and how we choose to live and to love. All of us here have had lives full of good days, bad days, great days and in-between days," she said. "When we love, and we are loved in return, it is then that we can learn to deal with the bad times in order to truly cherish the good times," Minor said.
Mary McElhaney, a breast cancer survivor and coalition member, explained the coalition was founded in July 1994 and is a community-based component of the Appalachian Leadership Initiative on Cancer. She said it began as a result of the high incidence and mortality rate of certain cancers in Jefferson County.
"For every $80 that we earn, we can provide a free breast and cervical exam," Manfred explained in enlightening those in attendance on what the coalition is able to do with donations to help those in need.
Manfred also elaborated on breast cancer statistics, noting that one in eight women develop breast cancer. In Ohio, it is estimated that there will be 8,245 new cases of breast cancer. The county's statistics for 2011 show 51 cases of breast cancer, one of them a man. Twenty-three percent of those diagnosed were between the ages of 50-59; 23 percent were between 60-69; 37 percent were 70-79; and 9 percent were 80-89 percent with 8 percent occurring in women under 50.
"One good thing is that these numbers have not decreased over the years, but the mortality rate has (decreased)," Manfred said.
Also participating in the ceremony were Linda Bain, administrator of the Women's Health Center of Jefferson County, and Jackie Gibson, who gave the opening prayer.
The "Champions Ceremony" included the presentation of awards to:
Scott Bornyk of Toronto, who organized a one-time poker run that constituted the first time the coalition received money.
Rick Diequez, who started a poker run in 1999 after his mother, Irene, died of breast cancer. Its proceeds benefit the coalition.
Carlene Horner, who along with her husband, Kenny, now organize the poker run launched by Diequez. She said they organize the poker run in part in memory of Kenny's sister, who died of breast cancer. She presented a check from the benefit two weeks ago for more than $2,000.
Riesbeck's, accepted by Assistant Manager Steve Petrella. The store has donated to the coalition through its Breast Cancer Awareness Lunchboxes campaign in October.
The Pamela Shoemaker Foundation represented by Shoemaker's mother, Alice Gotschall, and her sister, Sandy Gotschall. Manfred said the coalition teamed up with the Pamela Shoemaker Foundation family and friends. "They have held successful events, and in 2012 they teamed up with Women in Action, and they have brought us tons of new members and a very large donation in Pam's name, "Manfred said.
Hess Corp. represented by Joaquin Martinez, operations manager. "Their very generous donation has allowed us to expand into billboards," Manfred said. "We look forward to putting their donation to good use. In the areas that we operate we want them to be a better place to live and work, and I think events like this accomplish that goal," Martinez said.
For information about WIAACC, contact Manfred at (740) 264-7210. For information about services, call (740) 282-5676.