"Tonight was wonderful. There are so many families here to show support and awareness of breast cancer," said Honi Grasing of Effort.
Grasing was one of about 100 people who participated in the Pink Light Walk in Gilbert on Friday, Oct. 15. She was the keynote speaker.
Grasing shared with everyone a little bit about her own experience with breast cancer 12 years ago since her own diagnosis. She had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
"I had really ignored my health by pretending that I was too busy with the family and work to go to a doctor and besides, I felt fine."
She operated on a "What I don't know can't hurt me" basis. It had been six years since she had last seen a doctor. It was a friend who made an appointment for her.
"I had to cancel because of business and the doctor's office wouldn't schedule me sooner, even though I felt a lump in my breast." A month and a mammogram later, she was seeing a surgeon.
"It was a long process and I was young, and often breast cancer is more aggressive in younger women. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. I found a doctor who was very supportive and who orchestrated my care which included six months of chemotherapy."
It was a year later that the impact of what she had just been through finally hit her.
"I was so focused on getting better, I really hadn't thought about the impact of the cancer."
She joined a support group at Pocono Medical Center and met wonderful positive women.
"I recently heard someone speak at the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer's Keystone Conference in Harrisburg who said, 'By healing others you begin to heal yourself.' This is so true. All of the women in the group have found strength in the support and love they give to others. People who would not normally have met, become longtime friends."
The group is sponsored by Pocono Medical Center and the American Cancer Society and is open to all women who have had breast cancer, no matter when and where they had their treatment. They meet the first Thursday of the month in the Brodhead Room of Pocono Medical Center at 7:30 p.m. Grasing serves as facilitator.
"The Pink Light Walk provides the same kind of support. It shows awareness and concern and encourages diligence in getting mammograms, doing self exams and seeking medical attention. It unites the community through individuals and organizations to work toward finding a cure, supporting those going through this disease, and taking preventive steps to avoid breast cancer and/or detect breast cancer when it is in it's early stage and most treatable," says Grasing.
She serves as Monroe County Captain for the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition. This group's mission is "To Find a Cure Now ... So our Daughters don't have to." They are advocates for so many programs including the Income Tax Checkoff for breast and cervical cancer research, the Healthy Women Program of the PA Dept. of Health, and have the 67 Women 67 County Exhibit.
The Keystone Conference is a way for breast cancer advocates, state leaders and medical leaders to all meet and work together to find that cure.
She encouraged everyone to prioritize.
"Give back to the community. Don't be afraid. You wouldn't be afraid to do anything for your children. I've heard stories of mothers stopping cars with their bare hands that were about to run over their children, yet they don't stop a cancer from growing to protect themselves. Early detection does make a difference."
She thanked everyone for all that they do.
Speaking about those who came out to participate in the Pink Light Walk, Grasing says, "They stand up and are counted among those who are searching for a cure. They are there for all of us in their support and they 'heal us all.'"
Kim Makuvek of Kresgeville was the other guest speaker. She has become an advocate for breast cancer awareness because her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago and knew about doing self exams and found her tumor.
She paused as she tried to collect herself, filled with emotion.
"It's emotional remembering what my mom went through."
Kim, her two sisters, and her father were her care givers.
Ever since, Kim has participated in many breast cancer awareness fundraising events
"I'm an advocate because women are being diagnosed with this disease at younger and younger ages. I have a friend whose two sisters were both diagnosed, one in her mid 30s the other in her early 40s. I met a young woman at the Little Pink Dress Party last week who was first diagnosed at age 28. Now she's 31 and the cancer has returned," she said.
She feels very strongly about educating the public about breast cancer awareness and has been fundraising and participating in the Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure in Philadelphia held every Mother's Day in May for the last 12 years with her two sisters. She also participates in the Allentown 5K Classic each year, which is a local breast cancer awareness event held each October that raises thousand of dollars for the Lehigh Valley area. She was a Relay For Life co-captain in the LV for about eight years.
And just this past spring, she became a part of the Team Ra Ras, made up of former NFL Cheerleaders, of which she was a member of for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1984 - 87. She and her sister, Kelly, were one of three sets of twins who made the squad in '84.
In Sept 2009 at a reunion for former Eagles Cheerleaders, she learned her coach was going through chemo. She learned there were at least 12 breast cancer survivors among the alumni.
Out of the three sets of twins of her squad, her and Kelly's mom had had breast cancer, one set lost their mom to cancer, and the third set of twins, one went through chemo and surgeries after her diagnosis.
"This year we raised almost $12,000 at the Mother's Day Race For the Cure with 50 alumni walking," she said.
In early June, another cheerleader from the 90s went to the Susan G. Komen Foundation with an idea about a Decade Dance with former cheerleaders going back to the 60s, to make a video that would raise money for the foundation.
"Team Ra Ras Kick Breast Cancer was born," she said.
Kim asked everyone to please click on the link because they have a goal of one million clicks which will raise $100,000. She asked them to share the link with everyone they can.
That link is: www.KomenPhiladelphia.org/Video
"The Pink Light Walk is important because it lets people know there are support groups out there for women diagnosed with breast cancer and their caregivers, especially locally. As Honi said, it also lets people know that there is life after breast cancer," said Kim.