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Breast Cancer Survivor Helps Others Find Strength and Emotional Healing

Melanie Hunt - Sherry's RunLEBANON, TENN. – July 10, 2009 – The 2009 Sherry’s Run will honor breast cancer survivor and one of the founding members of Breast Cancer Friends, Melanie Hunt.

Melanie shared her story with Sherry’s Run:  “I am a breast cancer survivor.  It was May 2000 when I felt a knot in my breast.  I knew that this knot felt different.  In January of 2001, eight months after feeling the knot, I underwent my final surgery to remove the remaining cancer, a bilateral mastectomy and dissection of my sentinel lymph nodes.  My diagnosis was ductal carcinoma insitu – the best type of breast cancer to have, yet with all the waiting and delays, it proved to be hard on the nerves, but God took good care of me.  Initially I was told I would have 6-8 weeks of radiation and probably some chemo.  Once the bilateral mastectomy was done and it was found that the lymph nodes were clear, I didn’t have to have radiation or chemotherapy.

My oncologist, when I told him how blessed I felt, told me he understood but that I truly did not know just how fortunate I was.  For me to have actually felt the knot while the cancer remained contained in the milk ducts, especially since it branched throughout the milk ducts and clustered in multi-areas of the breast, without spilling out into the surrounding tissue was very rare.  The other breast had several calcifications that may or may not have developed into cancer.  The bad news he said was that if it returned, it would be very aggressive; but, the good news far outweighed the bad as he said I had a 97 to 99 percent chance of it not returning.  Then, I really knew how blessed I was.

My loving husband, Pete, my dear family, friends and church family were there supporting me all the way; but, during all of this, much to my surprise, other people started reaching out to me – people that had breast cancer, people that I didn’t even know. They would call and send letters of support and inspirational items of encouragement.  One of those people was Marilyn Smith.  Marilyn had breast cancer.  Although I had never met her, she reached out to me with such compassion and kindness that it moved me.  In the mail one afternoon, I received two little soft t-shirts from Marilyn.  She sent them because she knew that I was getting ready to have a double mastectomy and thought that the cloth would be soft on my skin as I recuperated.  Marilyn was just one of many ladies, initially strangers, who wanted to help me and others who were facing cancer.

Marilyn saw positive in everything.  She told me that cancer was just another adventure in her life; although not the adventure she would have particularly chosen.  She was one of many who were helping others who were facing breast cancer.  When we lost Marilyn, I, along with others, picked up – trying to be there for anyone we were aware of that had breast cancer.  We soon realized that we could do so much more if we could get others together and be more organized.  On January 10, 2005, a group of ladies met in my home and realized we were doing good individually; but, could do so much more as a group.  So that evening, Breast Cancer Friends was born with the help of:  Faye Jackson, Betty Robinson, Margie Scott, Betty Wood, Pam Anderson, Joan Wagner, Carol Perkins, Faye Kieffer, Suzanne Tignor, Peggy Fox plus support groups from surrounding counties, American Cancer Society, Vicki Gordon – Relay for Life, Minnie Pearl Foundation, UMC and it’s Cancer Care Center, Dr. Peyton’s office staff, Lanny and Cynthia Cluck, many others and especially Maple Hill Church of Christ.  We drew inspiration from Marilyn Smith who always looked for the best in any situation and gave of herself.

Breast Cancer Friends reminds me of a Bible passage, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”.  Psalm 139:13-14 As individuals we are like little threads who alone are so vital and so important; but, together, these threads can be weaved together, like a blanket, to offer comfort, security and give beauty.  Through God’s hand, He put us together, to become a real force that can use our small acts as a mighty force.

In Breast Cancer Friends our mission is to help breast cancer survivors find strength and emotional healing to move on with their lives, knowing they are not alone.  “The joy of the Lord is my strength.”  Nehemiah 8:10b is a verse we use for the Breast Cancer Friends group as we know our strength to press on through breast cancer comes from Him.

We all help each other and in turn, we gain more from being with these ladies as they go through cancer – yet they think that we are helping them; but, they inspire each of us daily.  We meet the third Monday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Maple Hill Church of Christ.  For more information, please call me at 444-6106 or Jean Lancaster at 504-1147, or visit our web page at www.maplehillchurch.org.  The group is open to ladies with cancer and serves as a network and offers friendship.

When Gary (Sherry’s Run) says, “To the world, you might just be one person; to one person, you might just be the world” I think of Helen Keller.  Anne Sullivan was that person who was the world to her—and look at all the good works Helen Keller did for the world because of Mrs. Sullivan!  I think of Bible figures—Joseph who ultimately saved countless people from starvation, including his own family.  I think of Rahab who saved her family and was in the lineage of Christ and so many more.  They all allowed God to work through them and accomplished mighty deeds they would not otherwise have been able to accomplish.  One of God’s greatest blessings is to have the privilege to help others.  One of the things I suggest to someone who says they are down is to do just one small thing for someone such as sending a card to someone with a short, handwritten note of encouragement to them.  For at least the moment, it takes their mind off themselves AND it helps both the sender and the receiver.

Most of us want to help someone.  We just don’t always know how to help and need someone to give us a little nudge in the right direction.  Or we may not think we have the talent or ability to help—that is when we can encourage each other and watch our lights shine for the Lord!  There is a place for everyone to help and make a difference in the lives of others.  God has seen to that.  We just need to tap into the resources He has already given us and ask His help to continue to grow.  That is what we do with Breast Cancer Friends and also with Sherry’s Run.

Whatever obstacles that are thrown in our life, after the reality check, it makes us stronger.  Cancer heightens your awareness.  It is more than just a bump in the road; but, it is a part of life.  At first I questioned, why am I the one that gets to live?  But I know that God uses it for a purpose and gives you something that you can share and that the Lord has equipped you in another way.  We should be thankful for everything that has been put in our lives; it has made us who we are. As Wayne Miller often reminds us from the pulpit “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”

The sixth annual Sherry’s Run is scheduled for Saturday, September 12, 2009 at 8 a.m. in Lebanon, beside the main office of Wilson Bank & Trust, 623 West Main Street.  Mark your calendar and make a commitment to become involved this year.

The mission of Sherry’s Run is to benefit those affected by cancer, with an emphasis on colon cancer.  Sherry’s Run (www.sherrysrun.org) is a 501 (c) (3) organization.  It was started in memory of Sharon “Sherry” Patterson Whitaker who died at the age of 44 from colon cancer. Donations are tax deductible and can be made online.  Funds received serve also to help those locally who suffer with cancer. For more information on Sherry’s Run, please call 615-975-1081 or 615-218-8810 or visit online.