Walk aims to Make Strides Against Breast CancerWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Esther Fabian plans to attend the 2012 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Northwest Ohio walk organized by the American Cancer Society (ACS). After all, ACS research has directly benefited her and her loved ones.
Fabian, ACS’ honored survivor for 2012, will speak at the 5-kilometer walk/event on May 12 at Levis Commons.
“Making Strides Against Breast Cancer happens across our country. Our event in Northwest Ohio is unique in that it happens in the spring. We tie it in with Mother’s Day every year. It’s kind of nice for mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts to come out and celebrate their survivorship,” said Lindsay Eaton, income development representative for ACS Northwest Ohio.
“It’s not so much about a race or walk as it is about a cause. I can’t imagine leaving it and not feeling elated,” said Fabian, who is associate vice president for branding and creative services for the University of Toledo.
Fabian has served as a board member for ACS for two years and UT Medical Center has been a sponsor of the event for all six years the walk’s been around. However, Fabian’s ties to the disease are even deeper. In 2009, she learned she had breast cancer at age 38.
“I found something that didn’t feel right and I ignored it for a while. My husband kept harping on me and harping on me so I went to the doctor,” Fabian recalled. “Because of [early detection] and things like ultrasounds and MRIs, they were able to detect it extremely early and the reason we know those things are so beneficial in early detection is because of research funded by the ACS.”
The mother of one chose to get her care at UTMC, surrounded by colleagues and friends. “I feel like I got really good care and there was an incredible outpouring of support by people who work here. That was huge, that was absolutely huge,” she said.
After the diagnosis came more decisions. Fabian was able to have a lumpectomy, when doctors remove affected tissue and the lump, instead of a mastectomy, removal of the whole breast.
“Because [the cancer] was caught early, I was able to chose to have a lumpectomy as opposed to a mastectomy, again [because of] more research that the ACS has funded. The chances of recurrence weren’t really going to be any different if I went that route versus a more drastic surgery,” Fabian said. ACS research helped Fabian even further, and through testing, it was determined that chemotherapy was not necessary for Fabian’s recovery.
Fabian’s family, friends and co-workers who supported her during her fight continue to show their love. At the Stroll for Strides event in March, a group surprised Fabian by showing up with T-shirts that had a picture of the survivor wearing pink boxing gloves on them.
“Even just having my husband and daughter show up shocked the daylights out of me, let alone having my colleagues who have been there every step of the way,” she said.
Cancer has changed Fabian’s outlook and also enabled her to help other survivors through her role at ACS. “ … It puts everything into perspective. I have more respect for people who undergo this challenge and journey. I get a lot more emotional. I also have a sense of guilt calling myself a survivor because my journey has been easier than others’ that I’ve seen. I also feel really good that I get people calling me out of the blue that I’ve met once saying, ‘I just got an abnormal mammogram, I’m scared to death, I don’t know what to expect next.’ The fact that I’m able to let them what my experience was … knowledge is power, and knowledge is also very soothing,” she said.
ACS Northwest Ohio estimated that about 300 women in Lucas County will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 76 will die because of it in 2012. Breast cancer’s fatality rate for women is second only to lung cancer, Eaton said.
Specific struggles are attached breast cancer. “It attacks your breasts, a sign of femininity and sometimes you lose not only your breasts, but your hair. Sometimes for women it’s an identity issue as well as fighting a disease,” Eaton said.
Although Fabian did not end up needing chemotherapy, hair loss was a major concern. “This sounds so vain and I’m a little embarrassed to say when I was confronted with the fact that I would probably lose my hair at the time … that was the first time after I had gotten the initial diagnosis that I cried,” she remembered.
ACS aims to raise $135,000 with the May event through fundraising from walkers, pledges and donations. Last year, Making Strides pulled in $123,000 with about 4,000 walkers, Eaton said.
This is ACS’ only specific-cancer fundraising event of the year, Eaton said. About 60 percent of funds raised will go toward the national group to help fund breast cancer research and 40 percent will go to local programming. This means dollars could go to helping someone affected by breast cancer with their finances. The local chapter also supports programs like Reach for Recovery, which pairs those diagnosed with breast cancer with a survivor mentor, and Road to Recovery, a program set to start this year providing people with rides to treatment.
Regardless of whether participants choose to walk or even donate, they are still welcome, Eaton stressed. “If you can complete the whole walk, great, but if you can’t you’re still welcome to come walk a lap or participate however you prefer,” Eaton said. Walkers can register beforehand or at 8:30 a.m. the day of the walk. Special areas for survivors and caretakers will be featured in addition to face-painting, hair-wrapping and flower-sales tables. At 9:30 a.m., an opening ceremony will take place, followed by jazzercise to get the crowd warmed up before the walk. Wearing pink is recommended, but not required.
“We encourage pink just because it is the awareness color for breast cancer. We’ll have a lot of pink goodies that day, we’ll have pink merchandise for sale and you can identify us by the huge pink balloon arch at the front of Levis Commons. And people get creative so if you want to wear a silly pink hat or boas or leis, by all means, we’d love it,” Eaton said.
Making Strides begins at 9:30 a.m. May 12 at The Town Center at Levis Commons, 3201 Levis Commons Blvd., Perrysburg. To register or donate, visit makingstrides.acsevents.org.