Windom walk raises money to fight breast cancer
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WINDOM — Tyann Marcy and her mother, Tammy Hall, don’t just wear pink ribbons in recognition of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month each October.
No, they raise major dollars to make a positive and immediate difference in the all-too-common, ongoing fight against breast cancer — and their motivation is both personal and universal.“Unfortunately, many women are diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Marcy, who organized (along with her mother and aunt, Lisa Kolander of Lakefield) the third consecutive Breast Health Fund Walk that took place Saturday in Windom.“It’s very rare to meet someone who hasn’t either had breast cancer or who knows someone who has had it,” Marcy continued. “It unfortunately affects a lot of people, which really sucks.”Marcy knows firsthand of what she speaks.In November 2010, Marcy’s mother, for whom Marcy works as a team member at Tammy Hall Agency–State Farm in Windom, discovered small lumps in both her right breast and an armpit.But when she called the Windom Area Hospital to see when she could have a mammogram performed, she was told it would be a three-week wait because the hospital didn’t have a digital mammography machine and was dependent on a weekly visit from a mobile mammography unit, with limited hours available for appointments.“They were already filled up for the next three weeks, but she managed to get squeezed in the following Monday,” said Marcy. “It turned out mom had Triple Negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive and rarest forms, and waiting three weeks would have had a huge impact on her, as fast as that cancer grows.”Marcy remembers Hall telling her at the time, “Something good will come out of this,” and in many ways Hall has been right.“In early 2011 we approached the hospital and asked why they didn’t have a digital mammography machine, and we were told it was because they didn’t have the funds for it,” said Marcy. “I asked if they were OK with me raising money for them, and they said sure.”That inquiry grew into Marcy, Hall and Kolander initiating the Breast Health Fund Walk in October 2011. The walk offered one-mile and three-mile distance options, t-shirts and a free lunch for registrants who paid a participation fee.“I’d had no experience organizing anything like this before that,” admitted Marcy, 32, who nevertheless appears to excel at benefit organization. In the Breast Health Fund Walk’s first two years, the group raised more than $120,000, and nearly 450 people participated in the walk in both 2011 and 2012.Their success was great enough to enable the Windom Area Hospital to purchase a digital mammography unit by July 2012. A portion of the proceeds from the first two years’ efforts has gone into a fund managed by the Windom Area Hospital Foundation to offset out-of-pocket expenses (such as gas, meals and hotels) for cancer patients who need the assistance.“My mom said at the time she was first diagnosed, ‘If this happened to someone like you, with two young kids, it would financially kill you,’” recalled Marcy, who has two children, ages 6 and 7. “Between missed work days, daycare costs and other expenses, she is right, so we decided to set aside some of the money raised.“People in that position can apply for it through the Windom Area Hospital Foundation, but we wanted it to not be too bureaucratic, with too many hoops to jump through.”According to Shannon LaCanne, the wellness and cardiac rehabilitation manager at Windom Area Hospital, the support fund now stands at $15,931.16, prior to receiving any proceeds from the 2013 walk of this past Saturday.“Without Tyann and Tammy’s efforts, the Windom Area Hospital Foundation would not be able to reach out and help our local residents in this way,” assured LaCanne, serving as a spokesperson for the hospital. “We appreciate their hard work, passion and dedication, which has the potential to impact thousands of people.”Because the critical importance of research into breast cancer’s causes and cures has been driven home multiple times to Marcy, Hall and Kolander, they chose to dedicate 10 percent of the funds raised in the 2013 walk to breast cancer research.“I was the first one to have a mammogram performed on the machine in July 2012, and they saw nothing concerning on my results then,” explained Marcy.But after Kolander was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2013 (she had a lumpectomy and underwent radiation treatment) and Marcy was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in May 2013, Marcy participated in genetics counseling at Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., to get a better sense of the family’s health history and future.“They found I had a 30 to 50 percent chance of getting breast cancer before age 50,” reported Marcy. “That let me to speak to a cancer specialist who advised me to have an MRI and mammogram twice a year.“And in July 2013, when I had the first MRI done on my breasts, they found a really concerning mass.”Later that month, Marcy had a double mastectomy and is currently enduring weekly appointments for breast reconstruction. “I don’t think people realize how much work it is to get your boobs back,” laughed Marcy. “It’s a lot of work and not very comfortable.”Just last month, more difficult medical news arrived for the family: Hall’s Triple Negative breast cancer has recurred, and she is undergoing radiation treatments on her brain and back and will start chemotherapy this week.“That’s part of the reason we’re stepping down [from organizing the Breast Health Fund Walk] after this year,” said Marcy apologetically. “We’ve had so much going on in the past six months.“We’re hoping someone else will step up and put their hearts and souls into it like we were.”Hall is now part of a clinical trial that Dr. Leland Jones of Sanford is conducting on breast cancer.“Dr. Jones told her they’re really close to finding cures for some of the forms of breast cancer, and that’s why it’s so important to donate to research,” urged Marcy. “This clinical trial could save my mom and her life, so I feel strongly that technically even though she may never again be completely cancer free, they can stop it from growing.”Marcy credits an “awesome, phenomenal support system” of friends and community members with helping her and her mother as they navigate their medical challenges, and she is grateful for all the community businesses and individuals (like Clark Lingbeek of Jack Slade’s/Phat Pheasant restaurant, who has donated a noon meal for the Breast Health Fund Walk participants each year) that have contributed to the cause.On Saturday, more than 400 people participated in the walk once again, and while the tally is not yet final, more than $20,000 was raised in the 2013 campaign.“This shows that, living in a small town, people pull together and help each other out,” attested Marcy. “We are doing this to help everyone.“You have to be upbeat; you can’t let the crappy hand of cards life dealt you determine how you’re going to play them,” continued Marcy. “We’ll be hopeful until we have reason not to be.“My mom is a very positive, optimistic person, and she was right — out of this bad came the good of the new machine, and a fund to help other people, and money for breast cancer research.”Contributions for the Windom breast health fund may be sent to Windom Area Hospital Foundation (make checks payable to “Local Breast Health Fund”), Windom Area Hospital, 2150 Hospital Drive, Windom 56101.