‘There are so many people that supported me’

Last week I attended a Relay for Life event in Jonesborough, Tennessee. I have covered a few Relay for Life’s in the past and they have always touched me. This is the first time I attended one of the meetings to kick off the season. Lisa’s story touched my heart! After talking to American Cancer Society Community Representative Jessica Poff about what they need in terms of volunteers for this season, I gave her my business card and told her I would help write press releases for Relay.

It’s true, everyone has been touched by cancer in some way, shape or form. Why wouldn’t you provide a helping hand if the opportunity was there?

Here is another inspirational story of a cancer survivor.

‘Relay’ gets ready for 2014

Published in Herald & Tribune March 4, 2014

For Lisa Tipton, the Rally Team meeting at AmericInn Lodge & Suites last week to kick off the second Relay for Life season in Jonesborough was the perfect place to tell her story.

Tipton, originally from Georgia, has lived in Jonesborough almost her entire life, and provided the speech to begin the meeting that was held Feb. 27.

Tipton said she comes from a long line of family members who have been diagnosed with cancer. Her mother passed away at 55 years old from cancer, and the following year cancer took the life of her aunt. Her grandmother also died from cancer.

“There are only four of us on Mom’s side of the family living,” Tipton said.

Two of those family members have had cancer.

Because of her family history, Tipton began having regular mammograms when she was 32 years old. In 2009, she was diagnosed with stage zero breast cancer as a result of a routine mammogram.

Lisa TiptonIn December of that year, Tipton had a double mastectomy. Her diagnosis at that point had changed to stage one invasive with cancer cells in her blood vessel.

Although Tipton said she was against chemotherapy treatment, her doctor convinced her that it would give her an opportunity to go on with her life.

She had four rounds of chemotherapy, once every three weeks, from January to March 2010. Twelve days after she had her first round, she lost her hair.

“I was never sick. I worked the whole time I took chemo, except when my blood levels bottomed out,” Tipton said. “I had energy and strength. My heavenly Father healed me.”

Tipton was not familiar with Relay for Life until 2010 when someone asked her to attend the event.

“I went to a few events that year — one in Johnson City and one in Erwin,” she explained.

To this day, the survivor lap makes her emotional.

“Every time I did the survivor lap, I did it crying,” Tipton said.

She said the survivor lap is awesome because it is a place where survivors are honored, as well as a place that gives them hope. Tipton said it is a great feeling to see people cheer them on when they are walking that lap.

After attending Relay for Life and as a survivor, Tipton felt she had a responsibility. She  said she wants to get the word out about how important mammograms are and what kind of assistance the American Cancer Society offers.

“I feel like I have a responsibility because there are so many people that came after me,” she said of individuals diagnosed with cancer. “There are so many people that supported me. I don’t want to ever forget that.”

Tipton went for her six-month appointment last week.

“I’m doing awesome,” she said.

The Team Rally event also included videos explaining Relay for Life and interactive activities for those who attended.

“Lisa is the reason we relay,” said Mary Jane Greene, Relay for Life chair.

Last year was the inaugural event for Relay for Life in Jonesborough. Greene said she has always participated in the Relay for Life in Johnson City and asked about bringing the event to Jonesborough.

“I have never seen or participated in an event that pulled together the way Jonesborough did,” she said.

Last year, 21 teams and 91 survivors participated in the July event that took place in Downtown Historic Main Street. The event raised more than $30,000.

This year’s theme, “Games!! Finish the Fight & WIN Against Cancer” is scheduled from noon to midnight, Saturday, July 26, at Downtown Historic Main Street.

The HOPE Ceremony, survivor lap and caregiver lap, will begin at 6:30 p.m., and the Luminaria Ceremony will kick off at 10 p.m.

The Fight Back Ceremony, Closing Ceremony will start at 11:30 p.m. and the final lap will kick off at midnight.

Greene said this year’s goal is to have 30 teams and more than 150 survivors. Financially, the goal is to raise a minimum of $40,000.

“We are going to reach for the sky,” Greene said. “I’m so excited about the 2014 relay.”

American Cancer Society Community Representative Jessica Poff said Relay for Life will feature all-day entertainment and activities.

“It’s a community festival that celebrates survivors,” she said, adding that it also provides more community awareness for everyone.

Committee members, sponsors and teams are still being sought for this year’s Relay for Life event. For more information, visit http://www.RelayForLife.org/JoinTheRelayMovement.

The next Rally Team meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 7.

Survivors

This morning I covered a breast cancer event, which awarded me with the opportunity to talk to quite a few survivors.

This event attracted 301 walkers, which raised more than $20,000 for From Our Hearts, an organization that helps women pay for treatments and screenings that otherwise could not.

To have the opportunity to talk to these women who have been cancer free for up to 24-years, was incredibly inspiring. One woman who walked in honor of her daughter was 90-years-old, which was also inspiring.

A disease that affects so many people, brings so many people together. I witnessed complete strangers become friends this morning as they shared their journey of becoming cancer free.

One woman shared she was a six-month survivor … she blew me away. Her outlook on life, her incredible sense of humor, as well as her love for life was a breath of fresh air.

As she shared her story about how she was diagnosed, her smile grew and her stories became funnier. She had the women surrounding me, as well as me, laughing uncontrollably.

This independent woman who enjoyed doing everything on her own, learned to let others in and help her in her time of need.

She shared that everyone has a path, which led her in another direction … a tunnel that eventually opened to show her so many others who have gone through the same thing.

As I sat and listened to these incredible women share their stories, it made me think of how precious life really is!

As we let little things bother us, little things that don’t in the grand scheme of things matter, we are wasting precious time to live life and enjoy every second we are here.

Their motto “fight like a girl” shined through all of their stories.

Stories like the ones I heard today makes me appreciate life that much more.

Caring individuals

Yesterday I interviewed four women who have dedicated their lives to helping women receive the care they need.

As I interviewed the executive director for Partners for Breast Cancer Care, tears rolled down her face twice during the interview, as she shared one touching story after another.

Her organization helps women and men who are low income and uninsured receive the breast cancer care they need.

This organization, which she has spent 13 years working for, saved her life many years ago when the organization helped her in her time of need.

Over the last six and a half years they have helped 7,000 individuals, 95 of which were diagnosed with cancer. If these women and men meet a certain criteria, this organization helps them by paying for mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies, lumpectomy’s and mastectomies.

She expressed many times that it is important not to let people fall through the cracks that are need because one of their services can change their lives by providing the health care that they need.

Another woman who I had the pleasure of speaking with is a breast health navigator. It was fascinating for me to listen as she described the support she provides these women at a critical time of their life.  The navigators provide medical, emotional, educational and financial services all free of charge to help eliminate some of the stress that is had during the patient’s time of need.

After I left the event and headed back to the office, I became passionate about the topic and what these ladies were doing. How many people know that there are countless services available for them?

Networking is such a powerful tool, which is what four organizations accomplished during this event I was covering.

“If we helped one person and touched one person, we made a difference,” the breast health navigator told me.

The key to their success was helping every woman – or man – who came through their door receive the services they needed. If the individual for some reason did not meet one of their criteria’s, these women knew another organization that could further help them.

As a journalist I am fortunate enough to interview many of these organizations that provide endless care for those in need and inform the community that these services are out there.