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The Komen Mission:
To eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by advancing research, education, screening, and treatment.

 
Survivor Profiles
 

Diana Atkins (Irvine): It had been seven years since Diane Atkins' last mammogram when the simple test discovered a lump in her breast. She was diagnosed with Stage 1 cancer, had a lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. This married mother of two did her homework and says, "Knowledge is power." Through support groups at St. Joseph's Hospital, Atkins learned of the Race, and has raced with her daughter, now 13.

Atkins, a school administrator, says she was just a regular working mom with two kids before the cancer, and "it threw her for a loop." Now she finds enjoyment in every day and doesn't let the little things bother her anymore. She also became more focused on family and became introspective, asking the question, "Who am I?" She is a member of the National Charity League in Irvine, and has recruited 100 volunteers mostly mothers and daughters to help her give out medals at the Race this year.

Linda Loseke (Long Beach): Linda Loseke is a great believer in breast self-exams because that is exactly how she found a lump in her breast that mammograms and an ultrasound didn't pick up. At the time she was a widow; her husband had died the year before. Loseke, then 50, says she was stressed to death about cancer, but decided to fight it to the end.

She had a lumpectomy, six weeks radiation and is in a Tamoxifen program. At 53, she says her cancer changed a lot of things. It reminded her how fragile life is, especially since her husband had died the year before. "You must be where you want to be. If changes are needed, do it!" Loseke heard about Komen through Nina Rattner, and this year on Race day, she will help Rattner on the VIP Committee. Having moved here last year, she says working on the Race is a wonderful way to become acclimated to a new area.

Carla Cammack (Fountain Valley): A routine mammogram in 1997 detected a small lump in Carla Cammack's left breast and forever changed her life. But it didn't change her positive demeanor. She decided to earn sponsorship money for the Race in an offbeat way: she had a "hair loss" pool at her office. Her co-workers paid for a chance to pick the day her hair would fall out from the chemotherapy. She donated the money from the pool to Race for the Cure®. To show even further support, when she arrived at work on Monday, she wasn't the only one wearing a hat to cover her bald head. The entire office staff wore hats to make her feel at ease. And one of her favorite co-workers, a young man named Sean, came in with a buzz cut. The support and encouragement overwhelmed Cammack.

Cammack, 49, is celebrating 5 years of survivorship at this year's Race. She uses her experiences to advise and help other women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer by showing them how to turn a negative into a positive. "If just a few people can use me as a role model when life throws them a curve, it makes it all worthwhile," says Cammack. "Breast cancer is not a death sentence and is very curable, especially when caught early." As far as regular mammograms are concerned, Cammack advises, "There are no excuses to put off a simple procedure that can save your life."

Cammack is a four year Race committee member and finds this work to be the most rewarding volunteer experience of her life. She challenges everyone to get involved with the Orange County Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Fondation and the Race for the Cure.

Alta Osperhoff-Primus (Mission Viejo): Twelve years ago, in preparing for a ski trip, Alta Osperhoff-Primus, made a visit to her doctor to drain her breast. She had a history of fibercystic breast disease. The doctor found a lump. Surgeons wanted to remove both breasts. This 47-year-old got a second opinion from a doctor who said a lumpectomy would do the job. They inserted radiation breast implants, small little wires but she needed chemo. It made her want to just sit and cry, but she worked through it. A male friend she had known for 27 years stuck with her the entire time. Two years ago she married him. "Friends are precious," she says. Other things also changed. She doesn't let stress get to her anymore, and she doesn't go gangbusters as she did. Her oncologist, Dr. John Link, told her about Komen, and she has been to the Race for two years. This year she will volunteer to help. "Survivors have a connection," she says.

Karen Blankenship (Laguna Beach): When Karen Blankenship was 30, her doctor sent her to have a mammogram because of fibrous breast tissue. But it wasn't until January 1996, when she went for a screening and was diagnosed. She had 1st stage cancer and her right breast was removed. The process felt surreal to her, but she approached it like a business plan. She focused not on the immediate moment, but looked beyond the cancer to what would happen later. As a result of her ordeal, she mended her relationship with her parents. Blankenship has been on Tamoxefin for two years and educated her daughters, both of whom are grown and have fibrous breasts, about appropriate breast health. After her surgery, she felt she needed a breast support group and read about Ann Morris's group through Komen. Her daughter's law firm matched her daughter's donation for Komen, and last year both daughters ran the Race for Blankenship. This year, she will be on Komen's Speakers Bureau.

Diana Wahlstedt: Diana Wahlstedt works for Pacific Life where The Race for the Cure® is held, and has volunteered for the Race as long as it's existed. But a year ago, at age 40, when she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer, the Race took on new meaning. At first ignorant and scared about breast surgery, she was so relieved when she learned more about it and now looks at cancer in a positive light. And even though she is not a runner, she has been working out with a trainer and this year Wahlstedt will be doing the sister/sister 5K race. Through co-workers and church members, she has raised $900 thus far.

Nanci Brown (Rancho Santa Margarita): The Race for the Cure® has helped to give women a voice, to allow them to finally break the silence about being a breast cancer survivor. Denial ran strong in Nanci Brown. She was 46 when she felt a lump, and although she denied it was there, she went to see a doctor anyway. Breast cancer was in her family, her mother's sister had cancer and both breasts were removed, but she died anyway. And her father's sister had cancer as well. Brown's denial persisted even after surgery was recommended, so her doctor called her sister. Brown's sister flew out to be with her and it was she who finally convinced Brown to have the mastectomy.

Today Brown says she would do everything differently. She would have educated herself more, but her denial was so strong. "I'm much more spontaneous, more determined now," she says, "because life is so fleeting."

It was three years before Brown could tell friends that she was a survivor. She just could not talk about it. Then a friend who was a breast cancer survivor asked Brown to accompany her to Race for the Cure®. She didn't know Brown was a survivor herself. Brown also went to the Healing Odyssey Retreat and now she says she can "Shout it out!" This is the third year Brown will work at registration at the Race.

Judy Cohen (Fountain Valley): Because of her family history of breast cancer, mammograms have been a fixture of Judy Cohen's life since her early 30's. Her mother died at 47 of the disease, as did her grandmother. Her sister also had breast cancer. One year ago a routine mammogram detected cancer and Cohen had a lumpectomy, then chemo and radiation. Suddenly life was put in perspective. "The little things are not so important now," she says.

And then, without knowing it, her husband gave her a gift. One month after her operation, he was surfing the Net when he discovered Race for the Cure®. A year later she attended the Race. "I was surrounded by women with 20 years of survival and it was such a positive experience. I knew I would survive, too." This year she will volunteer at the Race. "It's such an upper!" she says.

Margaret Ferguson: The Race has affected so many women in a myriad of ways. Margaret Ferguson, a breast cancer survivor, started running the Race four years ago with just a few friends. Soon this Garden Grove Unified School District elementary school principal decided to form a team. Last year the team numbered 200, made up of families, employees, secretaries, bus drivers, administrators and teachers who came out to show their support. Ferguson's husband Joe died in '87 from prostate cancer, so when she does the Race, she says it's also for all the men who have died of prostate cancer, and other cancers, too. Breast cancer research transcends to benefit other cancers and diseases that impact the immune system. "My husband and I agreed that if what we went through helps someone else, then some good will come of it," says Ferguson, 57, of Anaheim. "This year my goal is to have at least 400 people run the Race. It is such a worthwhile cause."

If you need assistance resolving an issue with your HMO, contact:

HMO Consumer Hotline
California Department of Corporations

(800) 400-0815
(serving all California members of HMOs)
http://www.corp.ca.gov/

Center for Patient Advocacy
1350 Beverly Road #108
McLean, VA 22101
(800) 864-7444
http://www.patientadvocacy.org/

or

Center for Health Dispute Resolution
(An independent organization)
1 Fishers Road
Pittsford, NY 14534
(716) 586-1770