Every October, aka Pinktober, staff across Concordia wear pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Some show support for their residents, family, friends and colleagues who have been diagnosed with or survived breast cancer. For others, it’s more personal.
Janet Bennett believes God and many others helped her beat breast cancer. A 7-year survivor, Janet is a resident coordinator at the Concordia Haven Retirement Apartments.
Her journey began with a small, painless lump in her armpit. Scans and tests identified the lump as HER2-Positive Breast Cancer. This type tends to grow faster and oftentimes spread, according to Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center.
Following her official stage-2 diagnosis, Janet drove to her mother’s apartment, where her mother, sisters and daughter waited anxiously.
“We all felt pretty emotional,” Janet said. “I was pretty upset. My first thought was, ‘This is how I’m going to die. I’m going to die from cancer.’ But then I realized, with the medications and the treatments they have now, there’s hope.”
Janet’s treatment began with extensive surgery, during which surgeons removed 21 lymph nodes, 18 of which contained cancer. Following the surgery, Janet received intensive chemotherapy treatments at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, and after that, she attended more than 40 sessions of either radiation or other forms of therapy.
Janet finished her treatment in 2012. She felt blessed to have a lot of support from many sources, including residents from the retirement community where she works.
“My independent living residents amazed me with their prayers, and people from the community too,” said Janet, clutching a prayer shawl that rests around her office chair like a pair of wings. The shawl came as a gift from an unknown church.
Her own church community also became vital during her fight. A group of women often huddled around her and prayed over her, anointing her with oil. After one of these moments of prayer, one woman told Janet she saw the cancer leaving. She saw God taking the cancer away.
“I believe that,” Janet said. RELATED: Like Having a Nurse in the Family: Concordia’s Continuum of Care Helps South Hills Resident – Concordia Lutheran Ministries (concordialm.org)
Dawn Bastin discovered breast cancer takes many forms. A credentialing specialist for Concordia’s home and community service lines, Dawn found difficulty talking about her cancer during her treatment because she felt the hardships she faced paled in comparison to others.
“I had an easy time with mine, so I didn’t want to draw attention to it,” Dawn said. “I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want it to be made a big deal.”
Diagnosed in January of 2013, a doctor discovered a 1-centimeter-long lump during an annual mammogram. After the lumpectomy, doctors confirmed the lump as cancer and scheduled a lymph node biopsy.
“That was the scariest part,” Dawn said. Breast cancer typically spreads first to nearby lymph nodes under the arm, according to the American Cancer Society.
In Dawn’s case, doctors found the cancer had not spread. Still, she went through seven weeks of daily radiation treatments. Every day, she’d wake up, get her kids ready for school, and watch them leave on the bus. Then, she’d head to her treatment and make her way to work.
“The treatment didn’t put me down. I just kept doing things as I needed to,” Dawn said. “My treatment was much less involved.”
While Dawn feels blessed in her personal victory over cancer, she has now lost two parents to the disease. She lost her father, Lilburn Cooper, four years ago to a different form of cancer. And in April, her mother, Phyllis, passed due to late-stage, metastatic breast cancer. Both passed while receiving hospice care on the Concordia at Cabot campus.
“The one thing I learned from it all is that no two people receive the same treatment or outlook,” Dawn said.
When she wears pink, Dawn remembers not only her own battle with the disease, but she remembers her mother’s fight as well. Surrounded by a sea of pink, Dawn said it shows just how far the disease reaches.
“Have a positive attitude. A positive attitude means a lot,” Dawn said. “If you’re having a harder time than I had, reach out and take the help that people offer.”
Dawn Butler tries to provide positivity by supporting those struggling with breast cancer. A human resource manager for Concordia at Sumner, Dawn has never been diagnosed with breast cancer, and yet the disease encapsulated her life.
Dawn has lost two aunts and one uncle to breast cancer. While rare, breast cancer can occur in men, and according to the CDC, about 1 in every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are found in men.
Beyond her own family, Dawn’s best friend, who had been in remission from leukemia, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. For her friend and anyone struggling with cancer, Dawn offers various forms of support. She drives them to appointments, helps them clean their house or cooks them dinner.
“They are wives, mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and they all need help getting along. As women, we tend to think about other people before ourselves,” Dawn said. “Listening to them, being there for them. Sometimes they just need someone to tell them that it’ll be OK.”
Dawn said she loves to wear pink in support of those who continue their fight with breast cancer. She said she feels elated having so many colleagues wearing pink too because it gives a great sense of community.
“It’d be great if we could just wear pink without it meaning anything,” Dawn said. “Until that time comes, we’ll continue to wear pink for a reason.”
To learn more about one of our supportive senior living and senior care communities near you, visit Concordia’s Location Overview.
To learn more about how to join this close-knit working environment, visit www.ConcordiaCareers.org.
Founded in 1881, Concordia Lutheran Ministries is a faith-based, CARF-accredited Aging Services Network and recipient of the inaugural Pennsylvania Department of Aging Excellence in Quality Care Award. As one of the largest nonprofit senior care providers in the country, the organization serves 50,000 people annually through in-home care and inpatient locations in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and Tampa, Florida.
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