Jen Burkholder, manager of the Malibu Fitness and Spa Center, located at 800 East Main St. in New Holland, bubbled over with enthusiasm as she spoke about her team and their recent participation in a Philadelphia LIVESTRONG event which raised money for the global foundation.
'I am a cancer 'co-survivor.' This is a word my sister, Nicole, and I coined when my mother was battling breast cancer. It was such a devastating blow to learn Christmas Eve of 2009 that my mother, Lorraine Burkholder, after a routine mammogram, and further screenings was diagnosed with breast cancer. That dreaded lump had turned out to be cancerous. We have lost family members to cancer and our family has a strong genetic link to the disease.'
Burkholder heard about the upcoming LIVESTRONG event from one of our fitness club members, Amy Smith. She told Burkholder the event would be held in Blue Bell on the Montgomery County Community College Campus, Saturday, August 18, and Sunday, August 19, 2012.
'This spoke to my heart. I knew Amy had participated the previous year. Here I was a 'co-survivor' and here was my chance to help other's like myself and my family. The organization is all inclusive, serving adults, and children, with any form of cancer from the newly diagnosed to after-care programs. And people like me, a 'co-survivor' were included in their outreach programs,' said Burkholder
Then the story poured out of her,
'One day I told one of my classes about it. They all got excited! Cries of---We could form our own team! --- Team names were being shouted out-quickly 'The Malibu Mob' was named. It developed like a snowball. Almost everyone's life is touched by cancer. We were going to open it to the community, friends told friends and soon in addition to myself fifteen members which included: Monica Hersh, Sally Delp, Paula Simmons, Linda DeFrank, Phyllis Mahers, Terri Spotts, Kathy Tshudy, Michelle Santiago, Linda Simmons, Amy Smith, Donna Horvath, Lorraine Burkholder, Larsen Houck, Jared Houck, Diane Duell, Hailey Houck, and Nicole Houck.
We set a goal of $1200. T-shirts were designed. We contacted The LIVESTRONG organization, and we were off and running. LIVESTRONG gave all of us their signature yellow wristbands and official T-Shirts. The team held local fundraisers, the Spa held different incentives as we reached out for donations even of a $1. Then we prepared to sign up for the Saturday 5k or 10k walk or run; or the Sunday cycling in 20k, 50k, or 100k increments.'
Jen recalled that day with vivid imagery and a sense of awe and gratitude.
'We sang the national anthem. It was an awesome experience (with) thousands of people walking (and kids) being pulled in wagons or put in strollers. You could feel the love. I was doing this with my family (her mom, her sister and brother-in-law and their two children). My nephew was being pushed in a stroller and my niece held my hand as we walked. One little boy rode on a unicycle. We were feeling gratitude that Mom is a two-year survivor.'
Amy Smith, who had planted the seed for the Malibu Mob, is herself a cancer survivor and was with their team.
'This was a day I will never forget,' continued Burkholder, 'We were all a part of something bigger than ourselves, we were fighters and we were all there for each other. When we came to the finish line I saw there was a separate finish line for the survivors to pass over. Each was given a yellow rose as they passed over it. The crowd roared with joy.'
Burkholder suggested that those interested should check out the Malibu Fitness page on Facebook.
'(You can) see photos from the day and follow how we progressed throughout the challenge.'
The Malibu Mob, to their great surprise and community support, far surpassed their initial $1,200 goal. Currently $4,200 was the totaled with more funds coming in. Quite a feat for the little town of New Holland and their local Fitness Spa. Plans are already in the works for next year's event, picking colors, themes-- the buzz has started.
The imagination cannot conceive of the mind/body/spirit assault this disease renders. The word itself starts the mind racing. Jen's Mother, Lorraine, was very touched by the whole experience and went on to share her personal struggle.
'I got my diagnosis on Christmas Eve of 2009, after my annual mammogram check- up. I was told they had seen something and wanted more tests, after a second mammogram I was immediately given an ultra sound. Then someone came in and told me, 'You have breast cancer'. It was a bad experience. I wanted to get away from there. I scheduled an appointment with Hershey Medical Center (they have a special Breast Cancer Clinic.) I can't say enough good about the nurses and doctors, the whole staff is fantastic. I don't know where I would be without them.
'My daughters, Jen, and Nicole and my daughter-in-law were awesome. They became my 'co-survivors' it was a long and painful journey. After I was told I should have a mastectomy and to also consider a double mastectomy, I went away to Florida to think all this over. When I came back, in 2010, knowing that my grandmother and aunt had both died of cancer, I decided to go through with the double mastectomy along with reconstructive surgery. After surgery they told me that it was good that I had done both breasts since during the operation they found cancer in the second breast. I had five operations in ten months. However, I did not have to have chemotherapy or radiation. It was extremely painful and someone had to be with me at all times since I could not reposition myself or reach for things. In addition to my family, neighbors and friends helped out by bringing food and staying with me. I don't know what people do if they have no family or close friends. I couldn't have done it without my support system. The nurses at Hershey were also always available by phone. My 'co-survivors' suffered with me.
'I want to help others, I did not know about the Armstrong Foundation when I was diagnosed. For others out there, it is a network of information and a guide to help you through the maze of confusion and anxiety. Cancer touches everyone's life.'
She described the Philadelphia LIVESTRONG event as a 'tearjerker'.
'The emotional feelings were palpable. There was a little girl walking beside me who was a five year survivor (she was only about seven years old.) There were so many children who have been touched by the disease. Too many people are touched by this. I want to do the walk again next year. We are fighting back.'
Amy Smith also shared her story,
'I am a 13 year breast cancer survivor. I had my surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. I then had to follow up with chemotherapy and radiation at Lancaster General Hospital. Each patient is different and each cancer is different. The protocol for each person varies. After radiation, my doctor referred me to a clinical trial of Herceptin, developed by Genentech. It was given by infusion and since it was a clinical trial all costs were covered. This drug has now become part of the protocol. I also took Tamoxifen, a daily pill, for years.
'I am now in remission. The mistake that some people make is, if you have cancer, you think you will die. Someone told me about the LIVETRONG cycling and running challenges and last year I participated in the cycling event. This year I was able to participate with our team, The Malibu Mob, in the Saturday 5K run and the Sunday 50 Mile Cycling.'
Smith said the event is really challenging and a wonderful celebration of life – both joyful and empowering for someone who has gone through the cancer experience.
'There were 4,000 or more people attending, representing 48 states and seven countries. They raised a total of $1.7 million dollars for the foundation. I loved being a part of it and we are already planning for next year.'
Donations to the Malibu Mob are still being accepted, and anyone can donate by calling the fitness center at 717-354-4099. A big invitation is extended to anyone who wants to join them for next year. Don't delay, you do not have to be a spa member become part of the process.
Go to www.LIVESTRONG.org, or call 1-855-220-7777, for information on the foundation or for a special intake survey to evaluate your needs.
The best way to understand and know what they offer is to read their manifesto, below, which is also published on their website:
The LIVESTRONG Manifesto (LIVESTRONG.org Website)
We believe in life. Your life. We believe in living every minute of it with every ounce of your being.
And that you must not let cancer take control of it.
We believe in energy: channeled and fierce.
We believe in focus: getting smart and living strong.
Unity is strength. Knowledge is power. Attitude is everything.
This is LIVESTRONG. We kick in the moment you're diagnosed.
We help you accept the tears. Acknowledge the rage.
We believe in your right to live without pain.
We believe in information. Not pity.And in straight, open talk about cancer.
With husbands, wives and partners. With kids, friends and neighbors. Your healthcare team. And the people you live with, work with, cry and laugh with.
This is no time to pull punches. You're in the fight of your life.
We're about the hard stuff. Like finding the nerve to ask for a second opinion.
And a third, or a fourth, if that's what it takes.
We're about preventing cancer. Finding it early. Getting smart about clinical trials.
And if it comes to it, being in control of how your life ends.
It's your life. You will have it your way.
We're about the practical stuff.
Planning for surviving. Banking your sperm. Preserving your fertility. Organizing your finances. Dealing with hospitals, specialists, insurance companies and employers.
It's knowing your rights.It's your life.Take no prisoners.
We're about the fight.We're your advocate before policymakers. Your champion within the healthcare system. Your sponsor in the research labs.And we know the fight never ends.
Cancer may leave your body, but it never leaves your life.
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