Support Connection is proud to introduce the Walk Ambassadors for our 2021 Support-A-Walk for Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Jacqueline Baker, ovarian cancer survivor, and Beth Gillinsky, breast cancer survivor.
Walk Ambassadors are cancer survivors who share their personal stories to illustrate the spirit and purpose of this uplifting annual event.
Jacqueline Baker: Ovarian Cancer Survivor.
Jacqueline’s story: In December 2019 Jacqueline began experiencing an array of symptoms: stomach and digestive issues, bloating, feeling too full to eat, losing weight. She wasted no time in seeking answers, but it took a number of tests and medical consults before she finally learned, in February 2020, that she had Stage 3 ovarian cancer. Jacqueline says: “So many people think a Pap smear screens for ovarian cancer, but that’s not true. There is no screening for ovarian cancer.”
On March 3, 2020, Jacqueline had surgery. Unfortunately the tumors were too large to remove, so she then faced an 18-week course of chemotherapy, at the height of the COVID pandemic, which made it even more difficult and isolating. Jacqueline says: “It was frightening and scary. I had my family and friends, but I still needed someone else to talk to. I found Support Connection and they were there to give me exactly what they do: ‘support’ living with ovarian cancer even in the middle of a pandemic!”
Jacqueline’s chemo ended in July 2020. The next month she was able to have surgery and now she’s on maintenance therapy. Through it all Support Connection’s services have helped her cope: meditation and exercise classes, educational webinars, and a support group where she connected with other women confronting similar issues. She says: “Support Connection was and still is a big part of my successful recovery. I faced many difficult challenges with my treatments but I ‘weathered the storm’ and came through strong, feeling like myself again and a very positive attitude.”
Being a Walk Ambassador: Because of her commitment to making a difference in the community, Jacqueline attended her first Support-A-Walk in 2019, before she herself was diagnosed. In 2020 she walked again, this time with a Team she called “Jackie O.”
Being a Walk Ambassador means a lot to Jacqueline: “It’s a very important event that gives me a platform to share my experiences of being diagnosed with and living with ovarian cancer. By sharing my story, I hope to inspire other women, give them some comfort and sense of well-being, and most of all, let them know they don’t have to go through this alone.”
Jacqueline believes everyone should participate in the Support-A-Walk to help raise funds: “Support Connection provides many informational programs and services for women living with breast and ovarian cancer. Giving your time to participate in the Walk shows you care, encourages others to get involved, and brightens everyone’s day.” She adds: “No one should have to go through this difficult journey alone. The Walk spreads awareness and lets us come together as a community to support one another. You can make a difference for someone who has or has had cancer by just being there.”
Beth Gilinsky: Breast Cancer Survivor
Beth’s story: Because her mother had gone through breast cancer, Beth was always vigilant about screening. In 2006, a biopsy revealed Beth had lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS), a condition where abnormal cells form in the milk glands in the breast. LCIS isn’t cancer, but it indicates an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Beth called Support Connection for the first time when she got this news.
Eight years later, in 2014, Beth got the news she hoped she’d never hear: she had breast cancer. Even though her cancer was caught early, Beth made the difficult decision to have a double mastectomy. “It’s a very personal choice. With all I’d gone through for so long – screenings twice a year, a biopsy almost every year – I didn’t want to continue to live with so much uncertainty.” Beth turned to Support Connection again, speaking regularly to a Peer Counselor: “Talking to my counselor was so valuable. Sometimes I felt like the ‘lucky’ one, but it was still so hard. My counselor validated my feelings and my decisions and really helped me through it.”
Being a Walk Ambassador: Support Connection continues to mean a lot to Beth, who remains very grateful for the help she received. She regularly attends events, such as raising funds and participating in the Support-A-Walk every year with a group of friends she calls “Beth’s Bosom Buddies.”
Beth is delighted to be a Walk Ambassador: “I feel it’s so important to share Support Connection’s message. It’s an amazing organization. They give cancer patients and survivors and their families a place to talk, vent, or ask for guidance. All the counselors have been there. They know, from experience, how you feel.”
When asked why others should join her by participating in the Walk, Beth says: “Unfortunately, too many people are affected by breast or ovarian cancer. At my first Walk, I was shocked to see how many people attended. Support Connection can only do their job if we support them with donations. The Walk is their biggest fundraiser. It’s a great day to do something to help those who are going through cancer.”