Worthy Women OF DISTINCTION
October 16, 2013 A supplement of Suburban Newspapers Inc.
WORTHY WOMEN OF DISTINCTION
These women are more than worthy
Vanessa Wheeler’s cheery disposition and positive outlook have carried her far. Though she is nearly five years cancer-free, her husband lost his own battle with cancer in 2012. Keeping a positive attitude, she counts her family among the bright spots in her life.
Chris Tucker, band director for Gretna Middle School and an assistant band director for Gretna High School, was nominated by high school senior Alyssa Derks. Tucker’s personal cancer battle lasted only 45 days, but it reshaped her life in many ways.
Sherry Slater almost put off her yearly mammogram. Thankfully it was rescheduled and her cancer was caught early. Now she advocates and educates others about breast cancer and the importance of getting the yearly exam.
Through their own struggles and triumphs this group of fighters has stories worth sharing. By Tom Knox suburban newspapers inc.
This section is designed to recognize women who are battling and surviving breast cancer. The honorees, whose stories are throughout this section, were nominated for their courage, their zest for life, their attitude and their sense of humor. The 2013 Worthy Women of Distinction Award honorees are: Bellevue — Vanessa Wheeler Gretna — Chris Tucker Papillion — Sherry Slater Plattsmouth — Twila Stuhr Ralston — Terri Alberhasky Springfield — Tammy Kleymann Their stories are varied, compelling and important. This group of women has thrived, survived and given back to their communities. Twila Stuhr, with her husband by her side, takes life one day at a time. Through her many struggles with cancer her faith has remained strong. Always enjoying the feeling of being needed, she still helps others when she is able.
Terri Alberhasky is now cancer-free and advocating for others battling breast cancer. And after she was declared cancer-free, wearing a pink jacket she and her husband once more set out on motorcycle rides around the Ralston area.
Tammy Kleymann had been diagnosed with carcinoid cancer five years ago and was cancer-free when she was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. Nominated by her sister, Kleymann has a message for others who are diagnosed with cancer.
WORTHY WOMEN OF DISTINCTION Special Sections Editor: Shelly Larsen • Section Editor and Designer: Tom Knox • Copy Editor: Howard K. Marcus Retail Advertising Manager: Dan Matuella • Special Projects Manager: Paul Swanson
This special section is published by Suburban Newspapers Inc. To advertise in future sections, contact Marie Douglas at 402-444-1202.
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Itâ€™s the signature color By Tom Knox â€˘
SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.
Pink has become an instantly recognizable symbol for breast cancer awareness. Wearing a pink ribbon, T-shirt, cap, wristband or other attire has become a show of support for those who are fighting and surviving breast cancer. And since this is breast cancer awareness month, what better time than to don something, well, pink. But there are more ways to support the foundation and help fight breast cancer than by buying pink apparel and other merchandise. â€œPeople raise money in all sorts of ways,â€? said Karen Daneu, executive director of Susan G. Komen Nebraska. Those ways include golf tournaments, bowling tournaments, car washes and jeans day at the office. â€œWe even had a zumba-thon,â€? Daneu said. â€œYou name it, they have done it,â€? she said in reference to the ways that people have raised money for the foundation. The student council at Auburn High School sold T-shirts and pink cookies. â€œWe got $850 from that,â€? she said. And 75 percent of what the foundation receives stays in Nebraska, with the other 25 percent going to help fund breast cancer research at the national level. â€œWe raise money to give it away,â€? Daneu said. Much of the funding goes to specific nonprofit organizations to provide services for breast health, breast cancer screenings and cancer treatments. Last year, according to Daneu, the Nebraska organization helped provide more than 2,000 clinical breast exams, 900 mammograms and more than 500 people who needed financial assistance. Besides fundraising, you can show your support for breast cancer awareness in other ways. Volunteer, advocate or offer personal help to someone battling cancer. Mowing a lawn or bringing a meal can help ease the load for those who are working through cancer treatments and their families. So if you want to help with the cause, think pink. Then get creative.
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Tragedy struck Bellevue teacher, but she remains optimistic By Eugene Curtin SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.
either Vanessa Wheeler’s porch, cheerfully decorated for fall and Halloween, nor her cheery disposition give much indication that life has been extraordinarily cruel over the past five years. Since 2009 she has successfully battled breast cancer but lost Dan, her retired Marine Corps husband of 39 years, to brain cancer. Clearly, she feels the loss, reaching for tissues as she relates the one-two punch that destroyed the retirement plans she and her highschool sweetheart had laid. But whatever forces of darkness may lurk out there cannot take much satisfaction as, Wheeler insists on stressing the good over the bad. “Bad things happen, and a lot of times you don’t have control over the happening, but you do have control over what you do from that moment on,” she said. “Dan’s biggest concern was me. He just wanted to be sure that I’d be OK, and I kept telling him that it would be hard, but I would be OK.” The storm broke in December 2008 after Vanessa suspected that a lump in her breast might be more than the standard cyst, of which she had discovered many over the years. It was Stage 1 breast cancer, caught early because of her willingness to act on a suspicion. “I was always a person who ate right, exercised, I didn’t smoke, I took care of myself,” she said. “But I had an aunt who had breast cancer, and that’s what it was, it was just those stinking genes.” What ensued was the familiar
story of chemotherapy and hair loss, and trying to ease the concerns of loved ones who inevitably share one of life’s most trying journeys. This was an enhanced challenge for Vanessa, who for 23 years has taught fourth grade in the Bellevue Public Schools. As baldness began to appear — first noticed on a windy day when her hair literally began blowing away — she needed to let “my kids” know what was going on. In a brilliant stroke, she turned it all into a matter of amusement, wearing different styles and colors of wigs to the classroom. The kids laughed, and so did she. Vanessa’s diagnosis came on March 5, 2009, followed by a lumpectomy later that month. She began chemotherapy in May, finished in July, and began radiation treatment in August, just before the start of school. The radiation therapy ended in mid-September. Today she is nearing the fiveyear anniversary of being cancerfree. That is an important milestone, since after five years of remission she will no longer be required to see her oncologist. It’s as close to a declaration of being cured as a cancer patient can get. Things did not turn out so well for Dan, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011. Optimism abounded since it was caught early and removed in an operation. But the former Marine grew weaker in the wake of the operation and began to experience difficulty forming thoughts, walking and driving.
“And that’s what life is about. The people, and the connections that you have with those people, the wonderful people in your life.” Vanessa Wheeler The cancer had migrated to his brain, and tests showed that the tumors were too numerous to count. On Aug. 2, 2012, retired U.S. Marine Master Sgt. Daniel R. Wheeler died at age 59. Vanessa — two years younger than her husband, whom she married when she was just 17 — was now a cancer survivor and a widow. But, she insists, she is much else, too, and still has her many families. “I think about my family,” she said. “I still have my mom and dad. My mom just turned 81, and dad’s going to be 80. I’ve got a sister in Plattsmouth, two other sisters, and my brother, and my two daughters, and my sons-in-law and my grandchildren, and then I always think about my other families. “I have my school family, my co-workers and all those people in the district I have worked with over the years on various committees, then I have my church family, and my neighborhood family, all these wonderful people. And that’s what life is about — the people, and the connections that you have with those people, the wonderful people in your life.”
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Vanessa Wheeler, pictured at her southwest Bellevue home, survived breast cancer and is nearing the five-year mark of being cancer-free. Her cheery disposition has gotten her through tough battles in life. However, Wheeler lost her husband of 39 years to brain cancer last year.
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Tucker strives to make others’ experiences like her own By Vince Mancuso suburban newspapers inc.
hile breast cancer has left many families with tragic losses and others battling on for years, occasionally there is an encouraging story of a woman’s life saved through early detection. Such as is the case for Chris Tucker, Gretna’s Worthy Woman of Distinction, whose battle with cancer only lasted 45 days until she was announced cancer-free. “Mine is a (story) of extreme ease and success, as far as cancer goes,” she said. Tucker’s story starts on May 29, 2009. Serving as the head band director for Gretna Middle School and an assistant director for the Gretna High School band, she had just returned home from a band trip and was having a follow-up appointment with a surgeon after suffering a broken knee some time before. As she left, her doctor left her with one last statement: “Have a good life.” It would be only two hours later, she said, she would fail a mammogram and learn she had breast cancer. “Here one doctor says, ‘Have a good life,’ and two hours later, life has a drastic change,” she said. Fortunately for Tucker, the cancer found was in Stage Zero — though the cancer was present, it had not spread beyond the cell wall. However, she said, the cancer was considered a highly aggressive grade three, so had she waited a few more months, she said, her story would have been completely different. Tucker said she opted for a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. Her sister, Margaret Waldmann, had been and still is battling stage four breast cancer. “There’s a history in my family, so I wanted to take every precaution that I could,” she said. Calling herself the poster child for early detection, Tucker said her short battle was still not necessarily an easy one as she faced the fear of the four- to six-hour surgery. Tucker said her fear of pain may have
also served to protect her mind from the other cancer-related fears and said she is still thankful for her relatively easy experience. “All the really bad stuff, I was fortunately able to bypass,” she said, noting there was no need for chemotherapy or radiation. By July 15, 2009, Tucker was given a cancer-free diagnosis. “It was great when I could go to the high school band and say, ‘I am cancer-free!’” she said. In the time following the surgery, Tucker said she personally experienced the overwhelming generosity of Gretna, as students, staff and families throughout the Gretna Public Schools found ways to support her, even driving to her house in Millard to mow her lawn, clean her house and walk her dogs. “I love my dogs, but they’re high maintenance!” she said of Tusie and Sedona, her two red Dobermans. “People just came out of the woodwork to help.” Despite her surgery, and another follow-up surgery later in November, Tucker only missed two days of school — another large help in her recovery process, despite some physical restrictions. “I could still be there, and that sense of normal routine was extremely beneficial to my mental stability,” she said. This dedication inspired her students, said GHS senior Alyssa Derks, who nominated Tucker as a Worthy Woman. “When she went through this, she never let it get to her,” Derks said. Derks was part of the middle school band when Tucker underwent the surgery, but said she never knew about her teacher’s breast cancer until a year or two later when Tucker shared her story. “None of us knew what was going on,” she said. “You wouldn’t have known.” Derks said her teacher’s story of dedication and inspiration has helped her not only become more passionate about her skills in music, but her passion for life overall. “She teaches you more about life than about her subject,” she said.
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“Being a breast-cancer survivor ... I would like to do as much as I can to make someone else’s experience like mine.” Chris Tucker It was also in these months of recovery that Tucker found a new life passion: competitive racing. “Gretna band is my No. 1 passion, the Komen is probably No. 2,” she said. While previously never participating in any 5K before her surgery, Tucker said she had some friends who walked the annual Susan G. Komen 5K run and walk held in Omaha, and so in 2009 she joined. “Being a breast-cancer survivor ... I would like to do as much as I can to make someone else’s experience like mine,” she said. Of the survivors division, Tucker placed fourth in 2011 and second during last year’s run. This year, she said, she aimed for the top spot, having trained since Jan. 1 and competed in four races this summer. “I consider those practice runs,” she said, smiling. She even keeps last year’s time chart taped to her office door as a daily reminder of her target time. Tucker also excels in fundraising, being named in the Pink Honor Roll for the past three years as one of the top fundraisers each year. This year’s race was held Oct. 6, and Tucker finished in 5th place. She said the competition had increased this year. “Even if I had beat my own second place time from last year, I would have only finished in fourth place,” she said. Never losing her spirits, Tucker said she will have to try for the top place again next year. Derks said Tucker dedicates each of her runs to every female student she
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Chris Tucker had stage zero breast cancer on May 29, 2009. By July 15 of that year she was cancer free, only missing two days of her duties for the Gretna High School and Gretna Middle School bands. teaches. Though she would not wish breast cancer on anyone, Tucker said she has come out of the experience changed for the better. “I can’t say I’m glad it happened, but I can say it has reshaped who I am,” she said. “It added a new element to my life.” Her experience has given her a new drive in life, Tucker said, and given her a new focus on the value of community and service through the generosity she received from the Gretna community. She said many from Gretna served in roles meant for family members, as her family does not live in the area. “That overwhelming generosity from the community is all I’ve learned from this,” she said. Though she has been cancer-free for four years, Tucker said her family still battles cancer. Her dog, Tusie, was diagnosed with lymphoma this fall and has received chemotherapy to treat it. “We’re battling the whole cancer thing again in our household — and she’s had more things than I did.”
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Going to yearly exam resulted in catching her cancer early By Scott Stewart
suburban newspapers inc.
herry Slater knew something was wrong. A routine breast exam had led to a biopsy. A registered nurse herself, Slater was passing through her hospital while working for UnitedHealthcare when she stopped by the radiology department to ask if her results were in yet. She was told she needed to make an appointment with her doctor. Thatâ€™s when she said her heart sank to her stomach. The Papillion resident went alone to the doctorâ€™s office where her doctor gave her the news. That was Aug. 21, 2008. â€œIt was really a surreal experience,â€? she said. â€œThe first thing that went through my mind is, â€˜What am I going to tell my kids?â€™â€? When she got home, her son was waiting for her after dropping by the house on a whim. She called her daughter, and they sat together on the edge of a bed in tears as she told them the news. Two weeks from the diagnosis â€” on Sept. 4, 2008, a date she still recalls off the top of her head â€” she was going in for surgery for a double mastectomy. Her first of four rounds of chemotherapy began Oct. 9, 2008. Now the 65-year-old is living cancer-free. She recently celebrated her fifth anniversary by bringing friends and family together for her fifth Komen Nebraska Race for the Cure, giving back to Susan G. Komen Nebraska to help other women â€” and men, too â€” who are fighting breast cancer. Slater said itâ€™s a misperception that only women get breast cancer. Men can get breast cancer, although itâ€™s relatively rare. Male cases are about 1 percent of all breast-cancer diagnoses, but the Komen foundation estimates 410 men will die from breast cancer this year. She said she supports Komenâ€™s Nebraska affiliate because most of the money raised stays in Nebraska.
Slater has been recognized with the Komen Pink Honor Roll for being among the top 25 fundraisers each year. In 2012, she raised more than $3,000 for the Komen foundation. More important to her than the money raised, though, are her efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer and encourage people to get tested. Her friend was diagnosed four years before she was, and that experience helped drive Slaterâ€™s decisions along with the support from her friends and family. She said early detection is one of the keys to fighting breast cancer, which makes annual mammograms crucial even if they are inconvenient. Slater caught her cancer early after having mammograms for two decades. â€œYou really have to take time to take care of yourself,â€? she said. But it almost didnâ€™t work out that way. Her appointment in 2008 fell on a busy June day, and she ended up canceling. She received a phone call the next month asking if she wanted to reschedule. â€œAnd I did, and thank goodness I did,â€? she said. When doctors found her cancer, it was Stage 2, meaning the cancer was contained in the breast or nearby lymph nodes. Had she put off that yearâ€™s test and just waited for the following year, thatâ€™s a year of uninterrupted growth her tumor would have had â€” making treatment that much harder. Fortunately, Slater knew she needed an annual exam, and she decided to make it a priority, even though it would have been easy to skip it that year. â€œI just knew that I was supposed to do it that year,â€? she said. â€œIt was pretty much routine.â€? Slaterâ€™s daughter, Jacqui Lawrence, said her mom is a â€œgreat example of a fighter.â€? She said her family is extremely busy, like most families with children, but her momâ€™s story reminds her of the importance of routine exams. Knowing how close her mom came to not getting tested, and how that may have changed her outcome, is a â€œkick in
the pantsâ€? to get tested. â€œYou do think of those things,â€? Lawrence said. â€œYou go because you love your family and you want to live.â€? Nevertheless, she said her momâ€™s case weighs on her, even with no family history of breast cancer until her momâ€™s diagnosis. â€œI have that fear every time I go in,â€? Lawrence said. â€œIt is so easy not to go.â€? But her mom is an example for her to follow, an example that extends to the rest of the Sarpy County community. The experience has changed Slater, and she considers herself to be a better person now. Lawrence said her mother has always been an independent person, and it took a lot to say three simple yet brave words: â€œI need you.â€? Slater said she was blessed to have a family that loves her and supported her from Day 1. Many decisions need to be made, and Slater says anyone going through a bout with cancer needs others to help keep track of everything. Her family kept a daily diary of observations, information from doctors, treatment directions and the rest â€” because itâ€™s impossible to remember everything. The diary wasnâ€™t just for Slater. Her loved ones benefited from it, too. â€œWe would jot down funny things,â€? Lawrence said. â€œIt gave us a purpose, too, and it made us feel like we were helpful.â€? One of the biggest decisions â€” Slaterâ€™s choice to have a double mastectomy â€” was one of the easiest choices of her life. She said she knew she would worry that cancer would recur if she didnâ€™t choose to have both breasts removed. â€œThat is probably one of the most decisive, quickest decisions that I made in my life,â€? she said. That decision isnâ€™t as easy for everyone. In fact, Dr. Edibaldo Silva, a professor of surgical oncology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, counsels patients to take the time needed to weigh the risks and rewards. Silva said only one in 20 women have
S c o tt St e w a r t s u b u r b a n n e w s pa p e r s i n c .
Sherry Slater stands with a Komen Nebraska Race for the Cure sign outside her Papillion home. Her cancer was caught early, but she almost skipped her yearly mammogram. â€œbad genesâ€? and the rest just have â€œbad luckâ€? that likely mean cancer is a onetime occurrence. Slater said it is important to find physicians who make you feel comfortable and who you can trust â€” because that will make a big difference. Fighting cancer means finding specialists and seeking out quality referrals, Lawrence said. Slater said thereâ€™s nothing wrong with deciding that you want to find someone else if youâ€™re unhappy with the first doctor you encounter. â€œYou have to advocate for yourself,â€? Lawrence said. â€œItâ€™s your body.â€? Slaterâ€™s family helped her be her own advocate. Five years later, she continues to stand up for those who need assistance, embodying the spirit of a fighter as well as that of a loving grandmother.
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Stuhr balances the good, bad; takes one day at a time By Toni Furmanski suburban newspapers inc.
wila Stuhr of Plattsmouth went to the doctor’s office in November 2005 for a sore throat and told her doctor about neck and shoulder pain that she had been having. When her doctor asked if she had a mammogram recently, she realized that she was due for one. Her mammogram results came back in January 2006, and she was told there was a “suspicious spot.” The spot turned out to be Her2 positive, the “young lady” breast cancer, which gets that nickname because it is typically found in young women. Stuhr was immediately put on an aggressive form of chemotherapy and a variety of medications. Over the years, the cancer metastasized to her brain, chest and, more recently, to her neck. She had masses removed from her brain on two different occasions and has had to change chemotherapy treatments and medications, either because her body began to reject them or they caused other medical problems. In 2012, her gallbladder ruptured because of a medication she was taking to keep the tumors from spreading to her brain. Stuhr had a mastectomy in 2006, but the cancer spread so much and is embedded so deeply in her body that it can no longer be removed. At this point, she is taking a medication called Super Herceptin, which was introduced in February of this year with the purpose of containing the cancer. “It won’t kill off the cancer completely,” said her husband,
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Lloyd. “Our hope is to cage it, and over time, that too probably won’t work. But then, you hope that there is something new that has been developed.” Throughout all these trials, tribulations and uncertainty, Twila and Lloyd have continued to have faith. She continues to be an active member of her church, where Lloyd is the preacher. She is currently working on gathering items to donate to thrift stores and she participates in Operation Barnabas, a network of care for military members and their families. “She does what she can when she has the energy,” Lloyd said. “Twila has always been the type that has a need to be needed, and (she) likes to have people ask (her) for help.” In her life before cancer, she was a hospice and home care nurse, however, because of the treatments and the surgeries throughout the years, she wasn’t able to renew her license and now, even if she had renewed it, she knows that she wouldn’t be able to handle the work. She struggles with looking at what her life is like now, compared to what it was like before. “We count the blessings that we have,” Twila said. “You take the cruddy days for what they’re worth.” Her oldest granddaughter, Summer, is a cheerleader, and a couple of weeks ago the weather was nice enough that Twila got the opportunity to watch her cheer. “So those are the days that you try to look forward to,” she said. “Some days you can do it and some
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“Your life changes so much. There’s some good and there’s some not so good, and you have to balance those.” Twila Stuhr
days you wake up and you just can’t. You just hurt all over. And so you do the minimal and hopefully get dressed and it really truly is, just one day at a time.” “We try to live day by day,” Lloyd added. “We’ve been doing that for quite some time. The living day by day, taking it as it comes, knowing that this is not going to be easy, you know? “We don’t have any pie-in-thesky ideas that this is going to be hunky dory. I pray that God would take away the disease but probably that’s not going to happen. So we just take it one day at a time.” Faith has become her stronghold, said Twila. And Lloyd has been her rock throughout everything. “Your life changes so much,” she said. “There’s some good and there’s some not so good, and you have to balance those. I look at other people and I think, I don’t have it so bad, and of course other people look at me and think, ‘I don’t have it so bad.’”
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Twila Stuhr of Plattsmouth has been battling breast cancer since 2006. Through her fight, she has learned to take the good with the not so good. All the while, her faith has grown.
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By Leslie Barker The Dallas Morning News
D Yoga helps cancer patients in spiritual, physical, emotional ways
ALLAS — Dr. Jaya Juturi prescribes plenty of medications for her cancer patients, but she would be remiss, she said, if she stopped there. Which is why the Dallas oncologist also suggests a treatment not found in any pharmacy: yoga. “We’re supposed to practice a certain way and tell people what’s proven to help them,” said Juturi, who is on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. “If we didn’t bring up yoga in the context of emotional or physical distress, we’re not doing our job. “If we said, ‘See a counselor and take medicine,’ that might be meaningful, but we need to create an empowering long-term strategy that will bring them everlasting results.” She said the medical field has been late in catching onto such complementary treatments. Now data has begun backing up the effectiveness of yoga, and doctors, she said, “are all about data.” Medically proven benefits include these: » Yoga helps ease stress. Research from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center indicated, among other benefits, yoga’s ability to regulate the stress hormone cortisol.
» Yoga helps cancer patients sleep better. A study published in Journal of Clinical Oncology reported improved sleep quality in cancer survivors and thus, fewer sleep medications needed. » Yoga can help improve quality of life. On its website, the Stanford Cancer Center reports that yoga “as a complementary therapy” has also been shown to relieve various symptoms associated with cancer. Nancy Scholberg can attest to that. A dozen years after her double mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and breast reconstruction, the Dallas woman relies on yoga to keep at bay the side effects no one told her about. “You go through this stuff, and a lot of times the side effects don’t hit till years later,” said Scholberg, 54. Her toes tingle almost constantly. She doesn’t have a lot of use of her thumbs. Physicians constructed her breasts from muscles in her back, leading to “so much scar tissue and so little movement,” said Scholberg, an avid runner and walker. “Yoga helped with stretching and making me feel so much better.” Her one regret? That she didn’t practice yoga while undergoing treatment. No one thought about it then, she said. “Yoga is all about mind, spirit and body. When you’re going through chemo, it’s such a traumatic time. Your body changes.
You lose your hair. What yoga does is bring me to a place of peacefulness a person going through that needs.” Plus, yoga helps patients deal with the stress of recurrence, Juturi said. At Dallas Yoga Center, owner and director David Sunshine said clients at all stages of cancer ask about yoga. “I tend to tell people that yoga doesn’t necessarily heal cancer, but it is scientifically proven to help in many ways getting through the process of recovery,” Sunshine said. “It’s about making the body a safe place to feel comfortable and return home to, so one is able to soften and relax and let go of a lot of the stressors and feel normal once again.” Peace of mind is the first phrase that comes to mind when Jenny Parum, Scholberg’s instructor and owner of the newly opened Yoga Movement studio, names the benefits of yoga for people dealing with cancer. “It’s the mental aspect,” Parum said, “the healing that’s necessary in the mind. The focus and the release are the main aspects. You have to nurture yourself on a completely different level.” She credits yoga with turning her own life around after her doctors diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis at age 19, so she understands its transformative power. See Yoga: Page 9
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Nancy Scholberg, front, regularly does yoga to help her deal with lingering effects from a double mastectomy 11 years ago. She is shown in Dallas during a yoga class.
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Continued from Page 8 Cancer is a fearful time for people, she said. Yoga is all about “getting them to a place where they feel sure of themselves, developing internal strength, keeping their bodies active and moving.” Scholberg, who stopped running marathons after undergoing knee surgery, decided to try yoga when her company offered classes twice a week. “Because of my mentality, I really like the physical challenges,” she said. “It’s still hard for me, and I’ve been doing it almost four years.” Parum has taught her to modify certain poses that she either can’t do or are too painful because of her chemotherapy. Some days, for instance, her fingers and hands hurt. “So instead of spreading them on the mat, I put them in a fist. Jenny knows the limitations I have, and if something is hard for me, she’ll remind me, ‘Do it this way.’” The breathing and meditation inherent to yoga help strengthen muscles, said Bonnie Lucio. She’s a rehab supervisor and physical therapist for Baylor’s rehabilitation outpatient oncology clinic, which has free yoga classes for cancer patients three Fridays a month. “Yoga can help alleviate symptoms of pain, insomnia, fatigue,” said Lucio, who recommends it to all her patients. “Cancer-related fatigue is really big. Yoga is also good for flexibility and balance, plus it helps psychological health and reduces anxiety and depression.” It helps people escape from what they’re dealing with, said Leslie Storms.
The registered nurse, yoga instructor and former family therapist used to teach a yoga class in Plano, Texas, to cancer survivors, their families and caregivers. “For a moment, they’re focusing and thinking about something that’s not the illness,” Storms said. “It’s a moment of freedom from the mind, from their ‘oh-I’m-sick’ story and getting to focus on their breathing and their intention. To me, that’s the sweetness of someone struggling with that.” Yoga is empowering, she said, a notion that comes up frequently with those who work with yoga practitioners who have cancer. “It’s seeing how people can overcome limitations of the mind and what their doctor told them, limitations of what society tells them and what their illness tells them.” Jennifer Trimmer, 51, credits various aspects of yoga with helping her deal with her breast cancer — the diagnosis, the lumpectomy and the radiation she had almost eight years ago. “It’s the Zen experience you have in the class, the camaraderie, the community you have with fellow yogis,” she said. “The breathing techniques taught me to step back and look at it as what it really is. There’s so much more to life than whatever is causing stress.” Juturi, who takes various yoga classes herself, said people don’t leave those feelings on the mat after class or their yoga tape ends. “It takes them from the mode of ‘I’m very vulnerable; I have cancer,’ to ‘I feel empowered; this is what I can do.’”
Your strength is an inspiration to us!
What a memorable year – our 20th year of helping breast cancer survivors and their families in Nebraska! The 2013 Susan G. Komen Nebraska Race for the Cure® events in Omaha and Kearney are complete, and they served as a tremendous reminder that there are so many in our state who are dedicated to the fight against breast cancer. They also served as a wonderful celebration of all the breast cancer survivors and their families across Nebraska. Thanks to all of our participants and sponsors for making these events such memorable occasions. Your generosity and support will help Komen Nebraska fund programs that assist thousands of women and men in our state. Because of this, we will also move one step closer to our vision: a world without breast cancer. Looking forward to another 20 years!
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Alberhasky ‘back in the saddle’ after cancer fight By Adam Klinker
SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS INC.
nasmuch as pink is the color of toughness in the breast cancer fight, Terri Alberhasky can say she was at the apex of tough even before her diagnosis. She still rides her Harley-Davidson motorcycle and is easily identifiable by the pink jacket she wears as she tools around Ralston. “I learned when I was 18,” Alberhasky said of her motorcycle experience. “It’s typical to see a woman riding on the back of a motorcycle. Well, I rode my own. And now I’ve got the perfect helmet hair.” Alberhasky’s close-cropped locks reflect the second time her hair has been so short in this, the beginning of her first few months of being cancer-free. A clean bill of health was declared on what she calls her second birthday, July 27. Her actual birthday is Oct. 30. She’ll be 51 this year and a world away from where she spent No. 50. “In the hospital,” Alberhasky remembered. “So for this year, I said I want to be cancer-free. This is my birthday gift to myself.” The cancer fight unfolded quickly for Alberhasky. Her mother is also a breast cancer survivor, and Alberhasky discovered that she carries the BRCA1 gene which has made recent rounds in the media due to movie star Angelina Jolie, also a BRCA1 carrier, and her preemptive double mastectomy. After soreness in her breast would not go away, Alberhasky consulted her primary care physician. He recommended she see a specialist in Methodist Hospital’s cancer care system. “The doctor there came back in and said, ‘It’s cancer,” she said. “‘We’d like to put you on chemo right away. Do you want that?’ And I said, ‘Yes, please.’” The diagnosis was Stage 3 inflam-
matory breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of tumors that do not always easily show on a mammogram. Alberhasky worried that she had waited too long. She had pain there, but thought it might not be anything more than an infection or swelling. But after a mastectomy and two rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, the prognosis is good. “I still had a lot of heartburn over that,” she said, remembering her decision to put off a doctor visit. “And I was pretty fortunate, in the end. The mastectomy was clean — they called that remarkable — and after another round of chemo and daily radiation for one month, I was healthy again.” Her health goals met, the next thing for Alberhasky was getting back on that Harley. Her husband, Ralston City Councilman Craig Alberhasky, said the old adage of not forgetting the feel of the ride held true. “She’s back in the saddle,” he said. “I can’t remember exactly the first ride we took after she was healthy again, but it was a good one, and we go for a lot of rides now.” Along with being back on the bike, Terri Alberhasky said she sees herself riding toward a new role — advocate. The role started early. Chris Grassmeyer, a co-worker of Alberhasky’s at Boys Town Center for Childhood Deafness, nominated Alberhasky for the Worthy Woman of Distinction Award. Grassmeyer was diagnosed with breast cancer not long after Alberhasky and cited a conversation she had with her friend that prompted her to make an appointment with a doctor. “She doesn’t know what an inspiration she was to me every day with little notes of encouragement or funny little emails signed ‘your bosom buddy,”” Grassmeyer wrote in her nomination letter. “She continues to encourage and support me, when she herself gets up every day and sees the battle scars, and I am sure looks in the
to find the
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“I encourage every woman to have regular checkups, especially when you reach a certain age. Most of all, just listen to your body and trust it.” Terri Alberhasky mirror herself and gives thanks for another day on this earth.” Alberhasky said that’s exactly what she does and what she intends to keep doing, with the help of her family — including Craig and son, Sage — and the larger community that has come out to support her in her cancer fight. Her husband points to the unparalleled care Alberhasky received and the blessing of good insurance. He said if there’s any way he and his wife can advocate for a broader and deeper level of care for families facing breast cancer, they want to do that, too. “We were lucky,” Craig said. “It worked out for us, and Terri’s (cancer) is gone now. Cancer used to be an automatic death sentence, and it still can be. But more and more, people are surviving. Fortunately, we had good insurance. I’m not sure that’s always the case.” And while Terri Alberhasky said she tried to remain low-key with her own diagnosis, she now has a directive to every woman, everywhere. “Women, I think,” Alberhasky said, “We take care of other people, and then we take care of ourselves. But I’m here to say that women, we need to take care of ourselves when it comes to this. I encourage every woman to have regular checkups, especially when you reach a certain age. Most of all, just listen to your body and trust it.”
Ad a m K l i n k e r / s u b u r b a n n e w s p a p e r s i n c .
Terri Alberhasky can be seen wearing a pink jacket as she rides her Harley-Davidson around the Ralston area. She and her husband, Craig, are able to enjoy the rides again now that Terri is cancer-free.
Twice a cancer patient, she has a message for others fighting cancer By Elizabeth Brown suburban newspapers inc.
ammy Kleymann found out she was going to be a Worthy Woman recipient when her nominator, her sister Therese Collignon, called to tell her. “She asked me if I was sitting down,” Kleymann said, “and I thought, ‘What has she done now?’” What Collignon had done was submit a letter to the Worthy Women online nominations that said, among other things, that breast cancer was Kleymann’s second cancer diagnosis, following her diagnosis of carcinoid cancer five years ago. Kleymann was diagnosed with stage four carcinoid cancer, which had started in her colon and spread to her liver and appendix. “I had 21 tumors on my liver,” Kleymann said. “They said I’d probably had it for 10 years.” Kleymann’s doctor put her on sandostatin, a monthly shot to slow down the spread of the cancer. “They said there wasn’t really anything I could do,” Kleymann said. “My son that works at the hospital said, ‘No, we have to do something.’” Kleymann’s son, Drew, found a Nebraska Medical Center commercial on YouTube in which a woman with the same kind of cancer his mother had shared her success story. “There was this doctor, Jean Botha, who had just come to the Med Center, and he did some surgeries to remove the cancer,” she said. “Chemo doesn’t work for that kind of carcinoid cancer. I didn’t want to do surgery, but my son got me to visit him.” Kleymann’s heart valve had been damaged by the cancer, and Botha said she would have to have open heart surgery to replace her tricuspid valve first. After the heart surgery, Kleymann was in the hospital for 10 days, but after coming home, she could tell things were not right.
Kleymann was in atrial fibrillation and had to be readmitted. Her heart stopped, and she ended up with a pacemaker to get her through the night. Seven months later, Botha felt Kleymann’s heart was strong enough to go through with the cancer removal surgery. Her colon was resected to remove the primary cancer. Her appendix was also removed, as well as 17 tumors on the left side of her liver. Kleymann was in the hospital for three weeks and suffered an infection during that time. Five months later, Kleymann went back in for her final surgery to remove her gallbladder and part of her liver. “I had a tumor the size of a softball removed from the right side of my liver,” she said. “They removed all that, and I was cancer-free. If my son hadn’t seen that ad, I probably wouldn’t be here, because it was Stage-4 cancer.” Kleymann’s was one of only five surgeries of the kind that Botha performed before returning to South Africa. She remained cancer-free until earlier this year. “In February of this year, I went and had a mammogram, and they wanted to do a biopsy,” she said. “When I found out I had breast cancer, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, here we go again.’ I was really good about getting my mammogram every year, though, so I knew it hadn’t been there that long.” Kleymann still goes in for scans every six months to make sure that her carcinoid cancer is gone, and she says her oncologist was amazed that she had a new, unrelated cancer diagnosis. “I can’t even win a $10 lottery ticket,” Kleymann said, “But I can get two different kinds of cancer.” She decided to get a double mastectomy so she “wouldn’t have to worry
about this anymore.” Tests came back with the kinds of scores that meant she wouldn’t have to do chemo. She is currently cancer-free from both cancers. “People hear ‘breast cancer’ and are just scared to death, but it was really nothing,” she said. “I went in and had a double mastectomy and was in the hospital for a day. In June, I went back and had my implants put in, and I was off work a day for that. It was nothing compared to my other surgeries.” Kleymann works as a diet clerk at Bergan Mercy Hospital and previously worked at Lakeside Hospital for nine years. “I think working in health care, you see a lot of people worse than you are, people that struggle at young ages with cancer or heart disease or lung disease,” she said. “There are a lot of people like that that are inspiring. They’re very, very sick, and they still have a great attitude and are friendly. You see people like that, and you realize you just have to keep on going.” HIPPA privacy rules prevent her from talking to patients about their cancer diagnoses, but she has a message for anyone with cancer. “You’ve just gotta live your life like you normally would. It will be ok. It’s just a hump in the road, and you’ve gotta get over it and keep on going. When I had my first cancer, my son was getting married, and I thought I’d never see that, and I got to see it, and now they’re expecting and I get to see that. My goodness, look how many cancer survivors there are! And there are so many people that are willing to help.” Kleymann has three children — Matt, Drew and Erin — with her husband Kelly. “I think the hardest part of it all was having them go through it, too,” she said. “But I had so much support and prayer support from family and friends. That was so important.”
ELI Z ABE T H BROWN / SUBURBAN NEWS P A P ERS INC .
Tammy Kleymann, now cancer free, has twice been diagnosed with cancer. She credits her son with pushing her to see a surgeon when the first cancer she faced wasn’t treatable with chemotherapy.
“You’ve just gotta live your life like you normally would. It will be ok. It’s just a hump in the road, and you’ve gotta get over it and keep on going.” Tammy Kleymann
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Learn about the woman behind the ‘cure’
housands upon thousands of women have battled breast cancer. Some have pulled through the disease, while others succumbed to it after a brave fight. Few people who have waged war with breast cancer are better known than Susan Komen, a name many instantly associate with the organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the most widely known, largest and well-funded breast cancer organization in the United States. Susan G. Komen was born Susan Goodman in 1943 in Peoria, Ill. According to her sister, Nancy, Susan was the high school homecoming queen and a college beauty queen. After graduating from college, Goodman returned to her hometown and pursued modeling, eventually marrying her high school sweetheart, Stan. Komen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 after finding a lump that subsequent testing revealed was cancerous. Komen underwent a procedure called a subcutaneous mastectomy, in which the outside of the breast tissue was left intact, but the interior breast tissue was removed. The doctor who did the procedure assured Komen that she was cured.
Despite urging her sister to get a second opinion, Komen was convinced she was safe. But within six months Komen found another lump under her arm, and, by this point, it was evident that the cancer had spread. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic determined the cancer had metastasized to her lung and under her arm. Komen underwent several different treatments to slow the progression of the cancer, including radiation and intense chemotherapy. However, the cancer continued to spread and eventually her body developed a resistance to most of the medication. During treatment, Komen repeatedly spoke with her sister about her wish to make the entire breast cancer experience and treatments in the hospital more palatable for women, including improving the appearance of waiting rooms and treatment centers, and doing other things to help comfort those who would find themselves in similar situations in the future. Komen lost her battle with breast cancer in 1980 at age 36. By the time of her death, Komen had undergone nine operations and three courses of chemotherapy and radiation. Nancy Goodman Brinker then
made it her mission to do everything she could to help end breast cancer and increase awareness of this potentially deadly disease. In 1982, Brinker established the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation in her sister’s memory. Since its inception, the organization, now called Susan G. Komen for the Cure, has provided funding for basic, clinical and translational breast cancer research projects. It also has become instrumental in breast health education and urging women to do self-screening while promoting annual mammograms. Through the years, the foundation has teamed up with many well-known businesses, brands and organizations as part of its fundraising efforts. To date, the organization has invested $750 million in breast cancer research, awarding many thousands of dollars in grants in countries around the world. Through her struggle with breast cancer, Susan Goodman Komen unknowingly inspired an organization that has helped to save the lives of millions. — Metro Creative Connection
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It’s 2013 — time to stop believing those breast cancer myths
hirty years ago, a diagnosis of breast cancer was thought of as a virtual death sentence for many women, but since that time significant progress has been made in the fight against breast cancer. Reduced mortality, less-invasive treatments, an increased number of survivors and other advancements have their roots in breast cancer research. However, the reality is that breast cancer is still a serious disease. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, held each October, brings awareness to the disease and empowers women to take charge of their own breast health. This year, about 200,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among women in the U.S., and nearly 40,000 women will die from it. Globally, 1.6 million people will be diagnosed, and 400,000 will die. Despite the increased awareness of breast cancer, myths still abound. Women must remain vigilant against this disease by learning the facts and understanding how they may be able to reduce their risk.
The Myths and Facts on Breast Cancer
Actions to Reduce Your Risk
Myth: I’m only 35. Breast cancer happens only in older women. Fact: Though the risk increases with age, all women are at risk for getting breast cancer.
Breast cancer can’t be prevented. However, research indicates that there are actions women can take to reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.
Myth: Only women with a family history of breast cancer get the disease. Fact: Most women who get breast cancer have no family history of the disease. However, a woman whose mother, sister or daughter had breast cancer has an increased risk. Myth: If I don’t have a mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, I won’t get breast cancer. Fact: You can still get breast cancer, even without a gene mutation. About 90 to 95 percent of women who get breast cancer do not have this mutation. Myth: Women with more than one known risk factor get breast cancer. Fact: Most women with breast cancer have no known risk factors except being a woman and getting older. All women are at risk. Myth: You can prevent breast cancer. Fact: Because the causes of breast cancer are not yet fully known, there is no way to prevent it.
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» Maintain a healthy weight — Post-menopausal women who are overweight have a 30 to 60 percent higher breast cancer risk than those who are lean. » Add exercise into your routine — Women who get regular physical activity may have a lower risk of breast cancer by about 10 to 20 percent, particularly in postmenopausal women. » Limit alcohol intake — Research has found that women who had two to three alcoholic drinks per day had a 20 percent higher risk of breast cancer. » Breastfeed, if you can — Research indicates that mothers who breastfed for a lifetime total of one year (combined duration of breastfeeding for all children) were slightly less likely to get breast cancer than those who never breastfed.
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Get involved with your care Being a proactive patient goes a long way in the fight against breast cancer. The grim reality is that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime. But women donâ€™t need to sit back and wait for breast cancer to happen. â€œWomen can become proactive in their own health care to reduce their risks where possible and to increase their chances of early detection if breast cancer strikes,â€? said Jacqueline Ross, Ph.D., a registered nurse and senior clinical analyst in the department of patient safety for the Doctors Company. Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in causing cancer deaths among women. Fortunately, death rates from breast cancer have been declining since the 1990s due to early detection, screening and increased awareness. Women can be proactive by increasing their knowledge of the risks of breast cancer. Two-thirds of women diagnosed with breast cancer are ages 50 and older. Some other risk factors related to breast cancer include radiation exposure, never having been pregnant, having the first child after age 35, beginning menopause after 55, never having breast fed, obesity, drinking more than
one alcoholic beverage a day and having dense breast tissue, which can mask the presence of a cancerous tumor. As with any risk factor, some of these can be controlled, but many cannot. For example, hereditary factors cannot be controlled. A woman who has a sister, mother or daughter who had breast cancer â€” especially if cancer was in both breasts, was pre-menopausal or occurred in more than one first-degree relative â€” is two or three times more likely to develop breast cancer. If a woman has this history, she should consider genetic counseling. Women can also be proactive by taking steps to help prevent adverse events in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Some 92 percent of breast cancer malpractice cases involved a delayed or missed diagnosis, according to six years of data on breast cancer claims from The Doctors Company. Both patients and physicians have a responsibility to take action to prevent adverse events. Patients can be proactive by communicating with their physicians and then adhering to their instructions. â€œWhile women can do nothing about the strongest risk factor for breast cancer â€” age â€” there is still a lot they can do to lessen other risks and increase their chances of successful treatment if diagnosed,â€? Ross said.
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The following are other steps patients can take to help prevent adverse events: Âť Discuss with your physician when and how often to get screened. Screening recommendations vary. The American Cancer Society and the Susan G. Komen Foundation recommend that women over 40 get annual mammograms, whereas the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends screening mammograms should begin at 50 and younger patients should discuss with their physicians when to initiate screening mammography. Âť Discuss with your physician whether to get a digital or traditional mammogram. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared traditional mammograms to digital mammograms. The digital mammogram is stored in a computer, can be manipulated better for visibility and clarity, and has a lower average radiation dosage, but is more costly. The findings indicated that digital mammograms were superior to traditional mammograms for three groups of women: those younger than 50, those with dense breasts (a risk factor in breast cancer), and those who were premenopausal or who were in their first year of menopause. Âť Work closely with your physician on developing a comprehensive health history. Many risk factors for breast cancer are known. Share any family history of cancer with your provider. Âť Discuss with your physician how to do a breast self-exam. Often sudden changes can be discovered between annual exams. Let your physician know immediately if you notice any changes. Âť If diagnosed with breast cancer, follow all your physicianâ€™s instructions for follow-up appointments and medications. â€” Brandpoint
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FACTS ABOUT BREAST CANCER Breast cancer affects one in eight women during their lives. It kills more women in the United States than any cancer except lung cancer. No one knows why some women get breast cancer, but there are a number of risk factors. Risks that you cannot change include Âť Age â€” the chance of getting breast cancer rises as a woman gets older Âť Genes â€” there are two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that greatly increase the risk. Women who have family members with breast or ovarian cancer may wish to be tested. Âť Personal factors â€” beginning periods before age 12 or going through menopause after age 55. Other risks include being overweight, using hormone replacement therapy (also called menopausal hormone therapy), taking birth control pills, drinking alcohol, not having children or having your first child after age 35 or having dense breasts. Symptoms of breast cancer may include a lump in the breast, a change in size or shape of the breast or discharge from a nipple. Breast self-exam and mammography can help find breast cancer early when it is most treatable. Treatment may consist of radiation, lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy and hormone therapy. Men can have breast cancer, too, but the number of cases is small. Source: NIH: National Cancer Institute
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