Susan Doty spends some time with her beloved dogs, Paisley, left, and Ruger at her Aberdeen home Thursday. Doty is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and talks about her journey and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
4-County lineman Derek Dawkins of Macon wears a pink hard hat in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Outside employees of 4 County are wearing pink hard hats throughout October. "It's a great way for us to show our solidarity with those affected by breast cancer," said Joe Cade, 4-County CEO. "In one way or another - through friends, family or as individuals - we've all been touched by this disease."
Photo by: Courtesy photo
Teresa Howell, left, and Sharon Logan
October 7, 2017 9:45:33 PM
Susan Doty gets up every morning to do battle with breast cancer. She's been at it since December 2013. A diagnosis of stage four metastatic HER2-positive cancer could fell most people to their knees physically, emotionally and spiritually, but Susan Doty will tell you that, in spite of everything, "life is good; I am blessed."
For her, and for thousands of women like her, October was once just another month -- a gateway to autumn and the holidays ahead. But October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It means something new now, Doty said. "I just never realized what all these women went through," the Aberdeen resident shared.
The month is set aside to ramp up awareness of a disease about one in eight American women will develop in their lifetime, the most commonly diagnosed cancer among all females in Mississippi.
"October is synonymous with breast cancer," said Kim Easterling of Tupelo, senior manager for area Relay for Life events. "It gives an elevated platform to really focus, when those who might not think about breast cancer have the opportunity to see it more visibly in their community."
Visible reminders often come courtesy of the color pink, which shows up in force this month. It may be on an NFL player's uniform or a 4 County employee's hard hat. Pink honors survivors, those in treatment and those who have succumbed. Pink can inspire funding for research through donations to the American Cancer Society, and even remind women to get a mammogram.
To someone facing breast cancer, pink worn in October means more than many realize. "It's very touching that so many people are aware of just what a vicious, vicious disease this is," said Doty.
One sighting of pink last fall was of particular significance to her.
"When I was diagnosed I prayed that God would let me live to see my son married to his girlfriend of seven years, which I already considered mine, and that happened a year ago this month. My son wore a pink tie in my honor," she said. "Then I prayed that he would let me see a grandchild, and if he blesses me with life until January, I will get to see that, too."
You can't do it alone
Teresa Howell of New Hope is cancer-free now, but she will never forget the shock she felt at her diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer four years ago. Like Doty, there was no history of breast cancer in her family.
"I think with anybody, when you hear the words 'you have cancer,' you feel like it's a dream, it's not real," Howell said. After the shock came her determination to fight. For that, she first credits faith.
"I count my faith in God getting me through all of it, and the support of my husband and my family and friends," she said. "One of the toughest things I had to do was tell our kids that I was diagnosed, but yet reassure them that it's going to be OK. I had to be strong for them."
Acts of kindness, however small, are not only helpful, but uplifting, she acknowledged. A meal dropped by the house, a ride for a child to an after-school activity, a note -- each gesture matters.
Howell said, "It's a whirlwind when you're diagnosed because you're being hit with you've got to have surgery, these are your treatment options, how are you going to get to treatment, you have to think about wigs ... you can't do any of this alone."
Fear of the unknown was the most difficult aspect of Sharon Logan's bout with breast cancer. No one in the Hamilton's woman's family had ever had the disease.
"To me one of the most important things to know is to have regular mammograms, and if you feel something, go get it checked out and not wait," said Logan, who, like Doty and Howell, relied on faith and a circle of family and friends throughout treatment. Next month, she will be a "four-year-survivor."
"October is special to me because I can celebrate being a survivor," she said. "To be able to say I'm a survivor is the most important thing to me."
Doty, Howell and Logan all point to the critical importance of a strong support system. Numerous studies have found that cancer survivors with emotional support tend to better adjust to the changes cancer brings to their lives.
"I have a great mama and daddy that I don't know what I'd do without, and my son and daughter-in-law, and my brother and many, many good friends ... " said Doty.
Howell remarked, "Lean on your family and friends for support. If they offer, take them up on it because you need all that you can get."
The American Cancer Society also offers resources to help cancer patients and caregivers, from understanding diagnoses and side effects to assistance with wigs and sometimes lodging.
There will be days you will not want to get up and go, Doty acknowledged. "But you have to ... it's important not to give up. There are going to be bad days, but there are going to be some good days again, too."
Boots & Bling Ball
While annual Relay for Life events are well-known in the Golden Triangle, the American Cancer Society, Camellia Hospice and area organizers are adding a second premier event to the calendar. The inaugural Boots & Bling Ball from 5-9 p.m. Nov. 4 at Trotter Convention Center in Columbus will be a family-oriented evening to raise funds for research and patient support resources.
"Guys can wear their western hats, and ladies can wear their cowgirl boots and pearls," said event chair Rhonda Richardson. "We're going to do a kids' corral and let them mine for gold. We'll have Disney characters, a huge silent auction, three bands and food vendors, too." About 20 honorees ranging in age from 18 months up will be recognized as well.
Tickets are $25; $15 for ages 4-11. Couples tickets are $40, available at community.acsevents.org or by contacting Richardson at [email protected] or 662-574-8655.
Those interested in assisting with the ball are invited to join a meeting Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at Baptist-Golden Triangle's Outpatient Pavilion.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.