Recently I had the chance to interview Terri Swain with the Susan G. Komen Dallas County Affiliate. She has an amazing story, and her team 1:11 Lauri’s Angels (which was created in memory of her sister) will be participating this October 17 in the Race for the Cure.
One thing that continually impresses me is the resiliency in people’s lives as they battle with breast cancer. And each time I hear a story about breast cancer I am reminded of just how common it is in more people’s lives than one often imagines. Check out Terri’s story below, and see how you can get involved by participating, encouraging, financially supporting, etc.
Rhett: Terri, can you tell me what your official role with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is, and how did you get involved?
Terri: I am a Director on the Board of the Susan G. Komen Dallas County Affiliate. I have been on the Board of Directors for four years. I have served as the Race Chair for the 2008 race and the 2009 race. These are both volunteer positions. After going through all my experiences with breast cancer, I really wanted to serve in a leadership capacity. Through various contacts I had, I was able to be interviewed and selected for work on the Board.
Rhett: I read on your team bio that your team compromises friends and family, who are running in honor of your sister Lauri who passed away two years ago from breast cancer. If you don’t mind, can you share a bit about her experience and how that influenced you to get involved in what you are doing now?
Terri: In 1998, when my sister Lauri Campbell was 35 years old, she was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. She was living in South Carolina. I had participated in Race for the Cure events since 1992 because I was an avid walker/exercise enthusiast and always believed it was a great cause. However, it became VERY PERSONAL for me when Lauri was first diagnosed. That year, I RAN my first Race for the Cure (instead of my usual walking). I figured if my sister could endure 8 rounds of chemo, surgery and 40 rounds of radiation, I could run a simple 5K. I went there by myself and it was a very emotional day for me. I looked at the race from a whole new perspective that year – I was part of the breast cancer family. In 1999, we celebrated my sister’s survivorship with all my family – my mother, three sisters and young nieces flying to Dallas and participating in the Komen Dallas Race for the Cure. It was a time of celebration and triumph. We were through with breast cancer but it was not through with us. In 2002, I was diagnosed with breast cancer – now breast cancer and our family were getting REALLY PERSONAL. Again, a valiant battle was fought and a Breast Cancer survivor – ME! – emerged. I was lucky in that my lump did not look cancerous to anyone but because of my family history – all precautions were taken. My sister’s diagnosis probably saved my life. I raced for the cure in 2002 after surgery, 6 rounds of chemo and 36 rounds of radiation, wearing the pink shirt for the first time. So about now – we are tired of cancer. However, cancer has not tired of us…while vacationing in Hawaii to celebrate end of all my treatments I received shocking news that my mother, age 62 and in tip top shape, was diagnosed with Stage IV Ovarian cancer. 6 months later we lost her. Amidst the grief of losing a mother to cancer, and in the beginning of year 6 cancer free (usually at 5 – you’re considered in remission) – my sister Lauri experienced a second diagnosis of breast cancer – this time Inflammatory Breast Cancer – a very rare and aggressive form of breast cancer with low survival rates. Lauri did not end up winning the war and at age 43, went to be an angel to watch over us – and leaving three young daughters behind.
By the time Lauri passed away, I was involved with Komen on the board level. After her passing, I wanted to make a bigger impact and volunteered for the role of Race Chair. In this role, I believe that I have been able to raise money and awareness to help others going through breast cancer in Lauri and my mom’s memory. (My mom raised us to be compassionate and giving people!) However, I also felt I was at an emotional crossroads – I could either wallow in my grief which was heavy or I could turn this into something that would help someone else. I did a lot of soul searching: Why does one sister Live and one sister die? Lauri and I both had the Braca2 gene but I’m still here and she’s not. I really feel the need to make my cancer count and to honor her life by making hers count too. Lauri was quick to help others even when she really didn’t have the money or strength to do so. I feel connected to the Komen cause because Nancy Brinker also used her grief at losing a sister to start a worldwide movement.
Rhett: When people show up for the Race for the Cure on October 17, whether it’s their first time or hundredth time…what do you think/hear is usually the most memorable experience for those participating?
Terri: The Race for the Cure for me is a lot of female positive energy. It is uplifting. It is encouraging. It is so humbling to see all the pink shirts and see that there are men, women, old, young, different races, various backgrounds with one thing in common – wanting to find a cure and help other people experiencing breast cancer. It energizes me for days!!
Rhett: In your experience what are some of the things that friends and families can do to support someone who is suffering from breast cancer?
Terri: BE THERE with small gestures!!! You would be surprised how many people will stay away from you because they don’t know what to say or do. Don’t do that!!! Stopping by to say hi; sending cards; anticipating needs or asking what the person needs – trying to keep as much normalcy in your relationship as possible. I had a friend that I walked with who would come by and say “time to walk.” I would tell her I was really too tired and she’d say – that’s ok – we can just go around the block but I know you like to exercise and be outside – it might make you feel better and IT DID!! A block turned into a mile; a mile turned into 2 – hey, I was normal again!!! Helping with car pool; keeping an eye out for the kids and what they may be experiencing….small gestures that mean a lot!!!
And for goodness Sake – NO SAD EYES!!!
Rhett: What can people who are reading this blog do to help support the work of Susan G. Komen and the Race for the Cure?
Terri: Come out and walk with us! If you’re not an early bird or an exerciser or like the crowds – Register to sleep in for the Cure. You can also be an online donor and whatever amount – however small adds up. $150 provides a mammogram to a woman who could not afford one. Encourage the people you love to get their annual mammogram and if ANY KIND OF LUMP IS DETECTED – get it checked out right away!! Early detection is the best protection.
How Can You Help
Support 1:11 Lauri’s Angels
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