Special to The Gazette | www.emporiagazette.com | January 14, 2012

Teresa Maley and Becky Loosen have both been affected by one thing that brings them together to support the Powered by Pink Campaign: breast cancer. Teresa will proudly tell you that she is a 25-year breast cancer survivor, but what makes these women similar is they both have lost their mothers from this disease.

Teresa, who recently retired from Emporia High School, is a breast cancer survivor and comes from a long line of cancer fighters and survivors; four generations to be exact. The fight began in 1962, when Teresa was eight years old and her 32-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought for almost eight years until she finally succumbed to the cancer in 1970. She left behind four young daughters, a devastated husband, and a legacy no one could have prepared for. She was a young 39 years old.

Ten years after Teresa’s mother died, her 37-year-old aunt received news that she had breast cancer, too. A few years later, Teresa’s maternal grandmother found out she had breast cancer at age 71.

In 1986 at age 32, Teresa was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though many doctors told them that cancer was not hereditary, the family believed otherwise. With five cancer diagnoses in three generations of women, they knew in their hearts that breast cancer could be passed through genes.

Their intuitions were correct. In the late 1980’s, they became a part of a Hereditary Breast Cancer study through Creighton University in Omaha, Neb. Teresa’s family was instrumental in helping to isolate the BRCA1 & BRCA2 gene mutations. These genes can be passed from generation to generation and often cause both breast and ovarian cancer in women and prostate cancer in men. Because of this gene isolation, families are now able to be tested to see if they have the BRCA-1 or BRCA-2 gene.

The day Teresa feared since her own diagnosis came on June 28, 2010 when her daughter called and said, “I found a lump and it’s malignant.” Teresa is proud to say that on Dec. 15, exactly a year after her daughter’s last round of chemotherapy, she gave birth to her second child.

Twenty-five years ago, Teresa kept her diagnosis very private. She wanted to protect her family and was scared at how people may perceive her if they knew she was a survivor. “I felt very alone in my diagnosis 25 years ago,” Teresa says. “I don’t want anyone to ever feel alone while going through cancer.”

“I am here today, to show you that many, many people can survive cancer and go on to live happy, healthy lives even if their genes are telling them otherwise,” says Teresa. The W.S. and E.C. Jones Breast Care center will help provide earlier detection and better and faster diagnoses for our loved ones. It is truly about celebrating birthdays, just like the American Cancer Society says. I’ve been blessed to spend an extra 25 birthdays with my loved ones.”

Becky Loosen of Derby can relate to Teresa’s battle with cancer with the loss of her mother, “June Bug” Monnard-Sauder six years ago. June was 87 when inflammatory breast cancer took her life. Unlike some women, a mastectomy was not a treatment option for June because of the type of breast cancer she had. She received intensive radiation and chemotherapy at the same time. Becky’s mother received treatments at Central Care Cancer Center (CCCC), near her hometown of Madison.

As Becky talks about her mother, she describes her: “Mother was vintage mother. She approached her cancer as she had her life. She spent the last months of her life living them like she had the previous 86. What I remember most about her is this quiet determination and courage. I remember Dr. Chester Stone, who was her oncologist at CCCC, telling her that transportation was available for her treatments. She asked him if she could still have treatment if she drove herself,” Becky laughed.

It wasn’t until Halloween, eight days before she died, that June was finally worried. “A penny for your thoughts?” Becky asked her mom. “Well, honey,” replied June, “I’m a little concerned about my health.” That’s just the kind of attitude June had; a very can-do type of attitude.

Becky supports the Powered by Pink Campaign because, like Teresa, she believes in the importance of being able to stay near home, within what’s familiar. Being around your support system contributes to quality of life. “If mom had to have had treatment in Wichita or Topeka, she would have been dependent on other people. There’s not the same love or support in a strange town.” Becky remembers having to wait close to two weeks before June got her initial mammogram results back. “Having this comprehensive breast care center will alleviate the wait between diagnosis and treatment, and mentally, that’s significant,” says Becky.

June donated money to Central Care Cancer Center when she died, to show her appreciation for the staff and the services and asked for it to be used to help others with transportation, education, or other personal expenses incurred during treatment. This fund was turned into the June Bug Foundation that many people know today. When Becky was asked to contribute to the Powered by Pink Campaign, she had no hesitation to help. The note she included with her contribution reads:

“Thank you for giving me this opportunity…. This is a wonderful, wonderful cause and from personal experience, I can tell you how important it is to keep people in their homes and their communities. It has such a tremendous impact on quality of life.”

Teresa and Becky both agree that at some point in time, everyone will be touched by breast cancer in some way, shape, or form. “When we were asked to support the Powered by Pink Campaign, we didn’t hesitate one moment to get involved,” explains Teresa and Becky. “It’s about saving lives, and saving families, their children, their husbands, to make this disease as approachable, and easy to deal with as possible. One of the best things we are doing in this campaign is making it so women can stay close to their families, to their friends, their churches, and what’s important to them. Families are not immune from breast cancer. At some point or another, everyone will be affected somehow. At some time or another, people will realize that this is a wonderful opportunity for emporia and the surrounding area to have at their fingertips.”

The W.S. and E.C. Jones Breast Care Center at Newman Regional Health will enable patients to obtain not only preventative screenings, but follow-up diagnostic procedures locally in a comfortable environment. Exams and procedures will be scheduled in a timely manner, reducing the time from testing to diagnosis to treatment, thereby reducing the stress on the patients and their family. To date, $434,000 has been raised toward our goal of $600,000. This is quite an accomplishment and the Powered by Pink Campaign Committee thanks everyone who has donated.

However, help is still needed to reach our goal. If you would like to donate, call Jodi Heermann, Executive Director of the Newman Regional Health Foundation, or log on to www.newmanrh.org.

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