Support Connection is proud to introduce the Walk Ambassadors for our 2022 Support-A-Walk for Breast and Ovarian Cancer: Janet Fletcher, ovarian cancer survivor, and Ebony-Joy Igbinoba, breast cancer survivor.
Walk Ambassadors are cancer survivors who share their personal stories to illustrate the spirit and purpose of this uplifting annual event.
Janet Fletcher: Ovarian Cancer Survivor
Like many women with ovarian cancer, Janet’s story began with an array of confusing and seemingly unrelated symptoms. She first noticed gastric issues such as feeling extremely bloated and uncomfortable. Soon after that, in February of 2019, she experienced extreme pain during intercourse. She immediately went to see her gynecologist who ordered a vaginal ultrasound. This revealed evidence of tumors in her right ovary, so the doctor ordered a CA125 blood test and an MRI. The blood test indicated ovarian cancer and the MRI supported this. By mid-February, Janet was in surgery where doctors found a tumor the size of a softball. She underwent a radical hysterectomy and had 27 lymph nodes removed; 26 tested positive for cancer. Biopsies confirmed that she had Stage 3C ovarian cancer.
Janet spent a week in the hospital after surgery, then experienced a complication and was hospitalized again. In April she embarked on an 18 week course of weekly chemotherapy. It was an exhausting and trying time, to say the least. Janet had family members who rallied around to help with meals and practical matters. But she needed help coping with her diagnosis, as do most women.
Janet’s contact with Support Connection began the same day she received her CA 125 results. Distraught after receiving the news while at work, Janet turned to a colleague; that colleague had used our services and encouraged Janet to call. In that first call Janet connected with a Peer Counselor who became a lifeline. From that point forward, Support Connection provided Janet with the guidance and strength she needed: “A diagnosis of advanced ovarian cancer terrified me. My life plans blew up in one brief phone call. The insightful, affirming, and tender support I received from Support Connection’s counselors carried me through the greatest trial of my life. They’re still there for me in every way I need, three years later.”
Janet feels Support Connection’s many services were critically important throughout her journey. She says: “As much as surgery and chemotherapy saved my body from ovarian cancer, Support Connection saved my psyche and soul through their one-on-one counseling, support groups, therapeutic exercise, art, and social activities. They’re an extraordinary organization supporting women with gynecological cancers and their caregivers. I’m blessed to have found them.”
Being a Walk Ambassador
To give back for the help she’s received, Janet recently began volunteering as a support group facilitator. That’s also the reason she agreed to be a Walk Ambassador. Janet attended the Support-A-Walk in 2019, not long after completing her chemo treatments. She recalls feeling thrilled to see so many people, and filled with motivation and positive energy. She says: “I am delighted to be a Walk Ambassador because I want to give back to the organization that has helped me so profoundly.”
Janet hopes that by sharing her story she will inspire people to participate in this year’s Support-A-Walk and raise funds: “The Walk is a healthy, life-affirming way to sustain an organization unique for the range of its offerings, and the intimate, caring support it provides.”
Ebony-Joy Igbinoba: Breast Cancer Survivor
Ebony-Joy was only 38 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2019. She was on her own raising two small children, in kindergarten and 1st grade. Her story began when she went for a visit with a new doctor. The doctor told Ebony-Joy she was unable to perform an adequate breast exam due to the anatomy of her breasts. After learning that Ebony-Joy had a family history of breast cancer (two maternal great-aunts had been diagnosed) the doctor advised Ebony-Joy to go for a mammogram and ultrasound “just in case.” The tests revealed 2 tumors in each of Ebony-Joy’s breasts.
In November of 2019 Ebony-Joy had a bilateral mastectomy, lymph node removal and reconstructive surgery. In addition to 3 of the 4 tumors testing positive for breast cancer, there was also cancer in her lymph nodes. So she soon embarked on a long course of treatment. Her chemotherapy continued until April 2020, then radiation continued until June 2020. This means Ebony-Joy had the added challenge of coping with treatment and recovery at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ebony-Joy received long-distance support from family members and friends who all lived out-of-state but did everything they could to lend a hand. She also had help with meals, childcare, carpool, laundry, and house cleaning from her local church community, as well as families from her children’s schools. But it was still incredibly hard: “It was really stressful just managing treatment and taking care of my kids, and then the fear of COVID started. I felt alone, but I also didn’t want to put a load on anyone.”
Ebony-Joy first reached out to Support Connection in February 2020 by submitting a website form asking to connect with a counselor: “I was dealing with insomnia due to the anxiety. I believe I did some Google searches looking for support for breast cancer, then I found Support Connection and filled out the form.” Her form was submitted on a Saturday at 2:38 am; the following Monday morning a Support Connection Peer Counselor spoke to Ebony-Joy on the phone for the first time: “I remember her saying right away that I must have been up in the middle of the night. It was so good to talk with someone who really gets it.”
Ebony-Joy is very grateful to have connected with that counselor: “She truly is an angel. I’ve known her for 2 years. When I see an email from her my spirit is full of joy. It’s a wonderful feeling to have someone like her to check in. I thought strength was doing everything alone. She has shown me there is amazing power in asking for help.” Ebony-Joy has also utilized other Support Connection services to help her cope, such as yoga and educational webinars: “Having cancer is hard. Going through it during the pandemic seemed impossible. I have learned that what makes me a superwoman is my strength. However the tears and leaning on others make me even stronger.”
Being a Walk Ambassador
Ebony-Joy is honored to be a Walk Ambassador. A resident of Georgia, she looks forward to walking in her own community, and is excited to invite friends and family in other states to also raise funds and walk where they are. She says: “Participating in the walk will bring awareness to the services that Support Connection offers to families experiencing cancer. They provide individualized peer support and a wide array of resources to empower cancer patients/survivors and their families battling cancer.”
Ebony-Joy adds: “We can all work together to bring attention to and raise funds for the services Support Connection provides to families battling cancer, to ensure no one fights alone.”