Step up to the Plate for Breast Cancer 2009
I am so very grateful for your attendance tonight.
My name is Dawn Panfil. I have been a professional hair stylist for over 30 years, salon/spa owner for 16 years currently w/ 32 wonderful employees at H&BS in NB Moorland Commons by Target.
When asked to speak before you I knew I needed to share a message from all BC Survivors. This is a message of HOPE.
He who has health has HOPE, and he who has HOPE has everything.
During my personal BC journey last year I journaled as many BC Warriors do. I want to share with you a few excerpts…they’re not all about me…these are words and ideas many BC Warriors have lived.
I faithfully had my annual mammograms since age 40 because that’s what you’re supposed to do. After a suspicious mammogram – a redo- then a biopsy – my life was changed forever by the 2 words …..“IT’S CANCER”.
A breast cancer diagnosis completely turns your world upside down. I have been through shock, PTSD, denial, woe-is-me and strangely enough…………..gratitude. What a roller coaster ride! I have always lived my life sunny side up, the eternal optimist and this is no time to change.
Newly diagnosed with an aggressive form of BC cancer all I heard my Dr. say was… “Blah, blah, AGGRESSIVE Cancer, blah, blah, blah, aggressive Chemo, blah, blah, blah followed by 6 weeks of radiation blah, blah, blah, expect to loose about 1 year of your life.…”
Yesterday I was a normal civilian, had everything going for me and today I’m working hard to become a cancer survivor. There’s no sugar-coating this crap. I felt great, healthy and full of energy. I could not sink my teeth into this diagnosis (But 2 BC surgeries made it real).
I understand that my life is no longer in my control, but in the hands of God.
My focus is no longer on being sick, but on getting well. I want to get well enough to have fun again, to go outside, get out of my pajamas, go back to work…I miss my “Tribe” very much.
Cancer thrives on chaos.
I’ve taken a deep breath and narrowed my focus on what really matters.
I am a survivor and someone that goes the distance; this is not about the sprint---it’s about the long haul. As we dance our way through life we sometimes fall down, the most important thing is that we get up and keep on dancing!
It is known that lemons can make the most delicious lemonade. Since a dumpster of whoop-ass lemons has been unloaded at my dock I’m making lemonade and you all are going to help me! I am inspired by the prayers, cards, hugs, flowers & food that you have gifted to Bill & I, we are so very grateful.
The thought of chemo is my nastiest vision. I understand the chemo room can be dismal and sad. How can I make that a better place for me??? How can I keep my spirits uplifted while sitting there for hours?
Redken, this huge icon in my beauty world has also come to my side. As I laid in bed last night an incredible idea came to me! Redken gave me a big white fluffy bathrobe a while back with their logo on it.
Together you and I will customize it with the greatest embellishments!
Here’s your part…it’s a treasure hunt! Go out and find me something I can sew or iron-on to this robe that is totally symbolic of the relationship that you and I have together as you have touched my life in sooo many ways!
Maybe a trip we took together, may a little sunshine, a HD emblem, a button from your favorite coat, a piece of fabric that represents something special ( a tie dye swatch from my favorite old hippie). An appliqué from your business, your favorite pet, whatever! Are you getting it?!
My personal contribution will be long fringe streaming down off the sleeves like my favorite Harley jacket years ago when I was born to be wild! This cowgirl is back in the saddle! Ye Haaaaa! Now put some thought into this, it has to come with a short story or description that I will share with all my new chemo buddies clamoring to sit down and plug in at the medi-port station next to me each session! I can hardly wait to share the story of you & me with someone when they ask me about your special token. Stop wasting time and start having fun with this. Joseph’s Technicolor Dream Coat will have nothing on this Robe! It MUST be washable in case I’m singing to the porcelain God in it. When I slip this robe on one arm at a time I will feel your embrace wrapped all around me. I will wear this Robe of Armor proudly knowing you are with me in spirit while I’m doing battle. …I will feel your love wrapped all around me.
Why does it take a challenge to our survival for us to give ourselves permission to really live? I’ve been so wrapped up in my life/business for so many years that I’ve forgotten the crazier sassy & fun side of me. That crazy-ass humor will pull me thru this. As a woman with cancer we can live every day with an incredible weight on our shoulders, one hand touching heaven, the other grabbing onto earth. Cancer has given me opportunity to trade in the “excuses” for the “why-the-hell-nots!”
When I showered today I gently washed my hair, thinking this may be the last time I have hair to shampoo till Halloween. I watched as a river of brunette slowly made their way down to the drain, circle around …..and quietly slip away. Hair tangled onto my eyelashes, over my lips and over my body. I was afraid to pull back the curtain to see in the mirror what was left on my head. Surprisingly enough, I still had enough to comb and wear into the salon. Maybe tomorrows shampoo will hijack the rest of it. Maybe it’s just a big tease and it will take days of wondering when I’ll be bald. Maybe I should just shave my head and get it over with. Maybe I’m just not ready for ‘Wig World’ yet. I set up all my wigs in the bedroom yesterday. For some reason I’m not excited about it. I’ll hang on to what little I have left for now. As I am about to embrace my new chemo-induced baldness in the next few days, again I have made peace with it. I have been so overwhelmed with fear and anxiety about loosing my hair, like that’s even worse than the cancer diagnosis itself.
There will be no running from this, my self image of being bald has scared me, but now I am ready to move on. Fearlessly. I do have control to make myself feel better in so many other ways. I have come to the conclusion that not hair, nor body parts, or the lack there of…make us the person we are. Internal beauty can be far more breathtaking than external beauty any day.
Inner beauty can be another weapon in my Warrior toolbox in the fight against cancer.
I do know that the strength, courage and love that cancer has brought into my life will make me feel more beautiful than ever. Hair or no hair I’m still in touch with my inner Diva….
I’ve also been struggling with myself in the positive attitude department. I have always been strong, positive and a risk taker. But cancer has brought me to my knees. The past two weeks I have struggle with sadness, depression, low or no energy, feelings of worthlessness and that I feel I’m letting others down because I cannot find the strength to perform on a higher level to serve them.
As much as I fight it, cancer sometimes sucks me into a very dark place, like nothing I’ve experienced before. It’s like those nightmares where we’re running and running and we can’t get away from the monster. Cancer takes so much from me mentally, physically and spiritually and many days, there’s nothing left. It scares me. I look into the mirror and I cannot recognize that bald headed person looking back at me. I’ve had to reach out to other BC survivors to help me cope, warriors I’ve never met in my life, but they’ve had their journey and they’re here to help me with mine.
Yesterday I unexpectantly ran into a man I have loved, admired and respected for many years. It was one of those moments that you were really hoping not to see anyone you know because you’re dressed your worst, no make-up on, I was having a bad day feeling very sad, I had only a dude rag on my head, seldom do I go out in public looking like this. I stepped closer to him to apologize that I would not be able to cut his hair next week and grab a quick hug. The moment of embrace I was overwhelmed with emotions and I could not hold back my tears. I was so embarrassed. As I walked away he hollered out to me “Keep up the fight!”
Wow! Keep up the fight. It was at that moment I realized what it means to be a Cancer Survivor. Let me take you back 2 months ago…I noticed that other women that had breast cancer would always introduce themselves to me as a “___-year Survivor”. No matter what or where I was when others found out I had breast cancer they always introduced themselves using “I’m a 6-year survivor”, “2-year survivor”, etc, etc.
I wondered why that always came up and if someday I would too be introducing myself to old friends and new acquaintances in this same manor. It came to me that from the moment of diagnosis, you are fighting like hell to survive.
You’re fighting to live, to be healthy, to have and conserve your energy.
You’re fighting to stay positive, be happy, to hold back the tears.
Fighting to maintain your self confidence. You’re fighting depression, to be normal again, and to forget you’re sick.
You’re fighting side-effects of chemotherapy as you have given your doctor permission to poison you on a weekly basis.
You’re fighting “Chemo Brain” where you cannot focus enough to read, think or process simple information.
You’re fighting for two good nights sleep in a row.
You’re fighting the stupid stories others are compelled to share with you about horrible cancer stories or the deaths of their loved ones.
You’re fighting with your mind to stop planning your own funeral and to stop reading the obituaries with lists of young women like you that bravely fought the fight of their lives and lost.
Cancer sucks, chemo sucks, but you must fight to stay focused on how precious life is, each day is a gift. I am a Warrior!
Today I couldn’t have been in a better mood-it was my last day of radiation. As I started driving to the hospital my emotions got away from me. I began to weep and the closer I got to the hospital the harder I cried. I surprised myself; I am not a cry baby. It became difficult to continue the route and even harder to find a parking space in the concrete structure on the grounds. When I’d blink the tears shot out of my eyes like sprinklers. I finally got into the changing room, sat down and got a grip on my emotions. All decked out in my fancy hospital gown, the nurse came to call on me and shared her excitement for me celebrating my last day.
We high-fived and I followed her to the treatment room. I could feel another wave of overwhelming emotion coming my way as they aligned my body and set up the BIG machine for the last time. My body started to quiver as I tried to hold back my tears in front of the 2 nurses that I’ve grown to adore every single day over the last 7 weeks. I cried as I thanked them for their kindness and compassion they’ve shown me and ALL the others like me they treat each and every day. As they turned to leave the room and the 18” thick lead door closed behind them for the last time I sobbed uncontrollably. I tried to hold my breath so I wouldn’t jiggle while the machine was warming up for my final Electron Blast. We are not supposed to move at all.
Tears ran down my cheeks and filled my ears as the last 8 months of my life flashed in my head.
From that 2nd mammogram that looked suspicious to “Don’t worry, this is such a treatable type of cancer, you won’t need chemo, you’ll be back to work in 6-8 weeks”; to the surgeon leaning over my bed in the recovery room informing me he had to remove 19 lymph nodes because it was now invasive breast cancer.
It is hard to describe but it was like a movie of my life in fast motion. There were faces of doctors, snippets of the chemo day infusions, and friends that made the journey easier.
Telling my family. CAT scans, multitudes of blood tests, white cell counts, guided imagery.
I revisited the sickest days I endured and the happiest moments dancing to the song “I Will Survive” (disco, Gloria Gaynor).
Compassionate visits and grateful meals that folks brought when I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow, my husband’s tender care, devoting his life to making me comfortable at all times.
I flashed back to the months on end I stared at the ceiling because I was too sick and paralyzed to move, napping with my kitty’s, listening to Indian flute music, watching pretty white snowfalls on the lake. I felt the pain and agony of wanting my damn life back, my career and time with my Tribe at H&BS. Every emotion you can imagine-fear, anxiety, stress, agony, faith, hope, love, trust, gratitude, etc, etc. All this and much more in about 7 minutes in that treatment room. By the time the nurses pushed open the BIG lead door to free me I was a total mess. ……………. …..I was finished. Treatment was done, so to speak. They had to help me off the table as I was so weak in the knees. It was as if nearly 9 months of insanity was released through my river of tears. I could barely breathe. It was a cleansing of sorts. It was time to celebrate a new life, a blessed life.
I have learned of the Blessings Cancer brings:
Unconditional love of my family & friends, as they are life’s most precious jewels.
Reality of what a blessed life I’ve had over the years.
Knowing others are praying for me, some people of which I have not had the pleasure to meet yet.
I learned to rely on my faith in God. The moment I completely turned it over to Him, life was good and everything became easier.
I have learned to be more patient than I have ever been in my entire life. My innate need to control situations was stopped dead in it’s tracks.
I’ve learned to accept help from others. It helps heal both of us at the same time.
I am far more compassionate to others needs, cares and troubles in their lives than ever before. I am saddened to hear of anyone experiencing cancer, chemo, pain and loss in their lives.
Everyday is a gift, accept them one day at a time and don’t sweat the small stuff.
I count my blessings every day with gratitude, no matter how great or how small.
See the beauty in nature.
See the Angels on Earth; they walk among us constantly going good deeds for others.
I say “I love you” with greater conviction than ever before.
I’ve accomplished a goal I’d never set out to achieve, the passage from invincibility to vulnerability to courage to strength.
I’ve learned illness does not equal frailty, that courage does not come without tears, that compassion is not the same as pity.
Priority’s shift and become the center stone of our lives.
Breast cancer is every woman’s nightmare, but it comes with great rewards.
I want to inspire and serve others as I move forward in my life with an even greater sense of purpose..
Today I am here with gratitude for your attendance.
You came here to help support Ellen and her conviction to BC awareness….
Today YOU give HOPE to BC Warriors fighting for their lives by the money you donate to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
You see…to me it’s not just money…it’s HOPE!
Hope for a Cure-in OUR lifetime!
Hope it won’t be you, your daughter, your mother, your best friend.
1 out of 8 women will be diagnosed with BC in her lifetime. Younger & younger…
Hope we can help women in today’s economic climate that have lost their jobs and are uninsured or underinsured and cannot afford treatment. High deductibles, high co pays, age restrictions or cannot afford time off work.
BC diagnosis can be catastrophic-physically, emotionally and financially.
Hope to continue to honor those that have lost their battle with BC.
Milwaukee & Waukesha counties have the highest mortality rates in SE Wisconsin.
Every 75 seconds someone dies of BC somewhere in the world.
Hope that funds raised here tonight will save lives with increased screenings and mammograms. Early detection is key to greater survival rates.
Hope that today your donations will help BC Warriors reach the finish line in the Race for the Cure.
The local community programs and services, research initiatives and global projects supported by YOUR money have already resulted incredible and important breakthroughs.
I am one of the lucky recipients of newer technology HERCEPTIN. It’s a treatment when your BC is diagnosed as HER-2 positive. There are more breakthroughs on the way as we move closer to a day we image BC no longer exists.
Where does your money go?
25% of the funds are distributed to support groundbreaking international research. Research Grants have pioneered the development of new drugs credited with delaying tumor growth and preventing recurrences in millions of BC Survivors.
75% of the funds go to programs for medically underserved women in 8 SE WI counties. Community grants have made education, screening and treatment accessible to millions of women who otherwise would have gone without.
Many organizations raise money for BC.
Know that YOUR money is serving people and saving lives.
If there was ever a time that we need your commitment, now is that time. It may be your donation that pushes us past a major turning point in discovering and developing cures.
On behalf of those women that will be diagnosed this year, next year and a decade from now, I urge you to do as much as you can as soon as you can.
You can rest assure that YOUR contribution will be put to good use.
October is BC awareness month. H&BS (Aurora & Panera Bread) are doing fun pink hair extensions all of Oct. $ raised goes to help women that are in great need. Come with your friends -show your true colors- and flaunt pink hair for the month in support of BC.
2009 - $50,000
Thank you, Dawn for sharing your story with us. The Komen Milwaukee Race for the Cure is just days away and we still need your help. Register to particpate and come see a survivor celebration, where we celebrate fighters like Dawn and much more. Or you can donate a general donation to the Race as well. Just visit http://www.komenmilwaukee.org/komen-race-for-the-cure/