Remember that classic Jack Benny routine where a thief accosts him and says, “Your money or your life”? Benny pauses for a long while and finally responds, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking. . .”I laughed myself silly the first time I heard that bit. But as a cancer survivor I now visualize that robber as cancer because it takes a lot of money to fund lifesaving research into prevention and treatment of this disease.That’s why walking in a Relay For Life to help raise those funds is so important to me. And on Saturday, June 24 I, along with many enthusiastic others, will be doing just that in the Baldwin Hills Relay at the Yvonne B. Burke Athletic Sports Complex baseball fields, 5401 S. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, between Stocker and Slauson. It will be my first time at this venue. In the past I’ve walked in the Culver City Relays, but my understanding is that various factors, including site costs, caused them to be discontinued. This will be a 24-hour event starting at 9 a.m. that Saturday to celebrate survivors, honor those no longer here, and learn about how to fight back against this pervasive disease. There will be delicious food available for a small donation, great entertainment, and informative talks and activities, including the Luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m., something I’ve always found inspiring and memorable. It’s expected that nearly 500 decorated bags ($10 donation each) will circle the track, honoring those who have survived cancer, are in the process of battling it, or who have passed on.From what I hear the Baldwin Hills Relay is a really warm and fun event. Troy Green, a very committed volunteer who has been designated a Community Champion by the American Cancer Society and can be reached

at (323) 353-6635 or troygreen@sbcglobal.net, is the contact for those interested in participating or seeking information. He is looking for people to help set up the day before from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, June 23, to help out on Saturday, June 24 at the event and to help take things down on Sunday, June 25. Additionally, anyone interested in donating funds, items such as healthy snacks, or wishing to participate in Relay individually or by creating a team, please contact him. I am dedicating my walk to the memory of Toni Tyrer, who died last June on her 100th birthday after being in sharply declining health for the final two months of her life. It was my privilege to be her caregiver during that period as she was not only an incredible and very dear longtime friend but also served as my caregiver following my diagnosis with breast cancer in 1991 and played a vital role in my recovery. Everyone has a story. Here is mine. In my late 40s I started experiencing hot flashes and other distressingsymptoms. After struggling to conduct business while drenched in perspiration I was put on estrogen and the symptoms magically disappeared. About a year later I detected a lump in my left breast, a first for me. It was a cyst; the doctor drained it, no problem. A few months went by and I felt a lump in my right breast. What?!? It was removed, biopsied, and proved to be a benign tumor. Whew! Maybe a year later I again felt a lump in my left breast. The stakes were rising in this game of carcinogenic ping-pong. The biopsy was on a Friday, and on Monday afternoon I went to the surgeon’s office for results. I had just sat down when he said, “I’m very sorry, but. . .”And that’s when the buzzing started in my ears, black spots appeared before my eyes, and I passed out. When I came to he explained that I had invasive ductal carcinoma,cancer that had broken through the wall of the milk duct and begun to invade the tissues of my breast. Arrangements were made for me to donate a pint of blood the following day, in case it was needed in surgery. I would also have various staging tests that week, with a mastectomy the following Monday, November 11, 1991.

This couldn’t be happening. I was going to have a breast amputated? Surreal . . . I was sobbing that night as I told Toni, convinced I was going to die. She somehow got me calmed down and insisted I get in touch with the American Cancer Society “because they will help you.”She was so right. This wonderful organization provided me with an array of services, all without charge. I received useful information through the toll-free 24/7 number, 1-800-ACS-2345, that is staffed with knowledgeable and compassionate information specialists (website is cancer.org). A Reach to Recovery volunteer also called on me, a lovely woman who was a breast cancer survivor specifically trained to provide peer support. I was so impressed that a year later I took the training to become one as well. Rides home from my treatments were arranged with Ride to Recovery volunteers, as I was in no condition to take buses. And I had several weeks of group counseling along with other recently diagnosed women, a true godsend. I am thrilled to support this organization in any way I can. It’s been an outstanding help to me and to so many others, providing hope during our bleakest moments. I will be easy to spot on June 24 as I will be wearing a wide-brimmed hat with ribbons pinned around the brim, bearing the names of those in whose honor my sponsors want me to walk. Additionally, I’ll be wearing a little sandwich board with my drawing of Toni on one side and Judy Glazer, a dear friend who succumbed to pancreatic cancer, on the other. Here’s a little Spanish lesson in memory of Toni, who was born in Chile. When I told her I had cancer, she taught me an expression: “Mano firme y triunfaremos.”It translates as “firm hand and we will triumph,” and quickly became my mantra. If we all pull together, what we can achieve is truly awesome, and if I leave you with one thought, a thought that can extend to all aspects of life, let it be this: MANO FIRME Y TRIUNFAREMOS!


Reader Comments(1)

Marian writes:

Bravo Sandra. Well said and inspiring story.


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