Support Connection, Inc. announces the selection of two Walk Ambassadors for their 20th Anniversary Support-A-Walk on Sunday, October 5, 2014 (rain or shine) at FDR Park, Route 202, Yorktown Heights, NY. This annual event is held to bring attention to the needs of people affected by breast and ovarian cancer and to raise funds for Support Connection’s free counseling and other support services for those affected by these diseases.
The Ambassadors are cancer survivors who represent the spirit and purpose of the Support-A-Walk. In honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Walk, this year’s Ambassadors were specially selected because of their longstanding history with Support Connection and the Support-A-Walk.
Registration and donations are now being accepted for the Support-A-Walk. To learn more or to participate visit www.supportconnection.orgor call 914-962-6402.
ANDREA DELLA MURA: Andrea is a busy wife and mother of two boys ages 10 and 13. But 21 years ago, when she was only 24 years old, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found a small lump that her doctor told her not to worry about. Nevertheless, she decided to see a surgeon, and with further testing learned she had breast cancer. By the time she was 25, Andrea had been through a lumpectomy, radiation and chemo. Her family and her boyfriend Pete (now her husband) were by her side the whole time, but Andrea still needed to talk with someone who’d been through it too.
She was introduced to another breast cancer survivor Nancy Heller (Support Connection’s co-founder.) Nancy took Andrea under her wing, listened to her, shared her own experiences. When Nancy and a group of friends decided to plan what would be the 1st Support-A-Walk in 1995, Andrea was asked to participate and be a keynote speaker: “When I was asked to speak, I was scared. But I was proud to be asked, and I really wanted to raise awareness especially with young women.”
Andrea has been involved with Support Connection ever since. As one of their first volunteers, she spoke with many other women who were diagnosed. “I started by telling them my story first, which made them feel more at ease sharing their own stories.” Andrea has been a champion for the organization in every way, sharing their mission with others in need and reaching out to donors seeking support for the cause.
In 2008, Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer again, in her other breast. She opted for a double mastectomy. “I was totally comfortable with this decision,”Andrea says. “When you have children, it’s different. You’re living for them. You do what will save your life.”
Because of her experiences, Andrea’s dedication to Support Connection’s mission has grown even stronger. She has attended almost every Walk and has spoken several times. She readily agreed to be a Walk Ambassador this year: “Since I’ve been through this, I have to share it with others. I feel if I open up my life and let other people look in, it’s a way I can help.”
Andrea adds: “I am so proud to be part of Support Connection. I am in awe of how far it has come and how many families have been helped along the way. I am truly looking forward to being part of this 20th Anniversary Support-A-Walk.”
JUDY CALLAHAN: When the 20th Anniversary Support-A-Walk happens this October, Judy will have just celebrated her 16th anniversary as an ovarian cancer survivor. When she was diagnosed in Sept. 1998, her daughter was in college and her sons were 8 and 9. Judy feels lucky to have been diagnosed. Only a month after her routine and unremarkable annual gyn exam, she felt a sharp pain when her son sat on her lap. She then discovered a lump: “It seemed to come out of nowhere.” She quickly saw her primary care physician who was immediately concerned. Tests and surgery soon followed, and Judy learned she had Stage 1 ovarian cancer. “I was very lucky to find it, and that it was taken care of right away.”
It was a difficult time for Judy and her family, filled with worries and questions. Less than a week after she left the hospital, Judy saw a notice in the local paper about the 2nd Annual Support-A-Walk, so she called the Support Connection office: “I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I guess I was looking for help, but I had no idea what kind of help I needed.” The volunteer who took her call, another ovarian cancer survivor, encouraged her to come to the Support-A-Walk where she’d meet others who understood. Even though she couldn’t complete the 3-mile walk, Judy attended, along with her daughter, and was glad she did: “Many different people spoke to me. I saw a lot of people all being very kind to one another. And I saw I was not alone.”
Not long after, Judy was at a local hair salon having her hair cut short in anticipation of losing her hair during chemo. When the stylist heard Judy’s story, she made a phone call. A few minutes later, into the salon walked Maria Jennings, Support Connection’s first peer counselor, to offer Judy some support. “It was so nice of her. To me, it also said a lot about the people who were part of Support Connection.”
Judy joined Support Connection’s first support group for women with ovarian cancer. It was a life-changing experience: “These other women were thinking and feeling many of the same things I was thinking and feeling,” Judy says. “My mind would race all the time, I couldn’t sleep. I realized it wasn’t just me, I wasn’t going crazy. It was so comforting to talk with women who understood.”
To give back for the help she received, Judy signed on as one of Support Connection’s first hotline volunteers. In the early days, these volunteers were trained to speak with women who called for help and information. Over the years, Judy shared her story and offered support to countless other women with ovarian cancer. “When I was going through cancer, sometimes I felt like I was jumping out of my skin and it was so helpful to have someone just listen. I wanted to do that for other women.”
Judy continues to share Support Connection’s mission with anyone she can. She has volunteered at community events and health fairs. In her professional life as the Director of the Putnam Community Action Program, she often meets people dealing with breast and ovarian cancer, and she always refers them to Support Connection.
Judy has attended almost every Support-A-Walk since that first one the year she was diagnosed. “The Walk has made such a difference for me. It was my introduction to Support Connection,” says Judy. She is happy to serve as an Ambassador this year: “Every time you attend the Walk, you see how many people really care. It’s a great feeling. “I want to share the message that participating in the Support-A-Walk is well worth anyone’s time. It enables Support Connection to continue its mission.”
Judy adds: “It’s 16 years now since my diagnosis, and I can finally say cancer is no longer the first thing and last thing I think about every day. I never thought I’d reach this point. But it took more than the passage of time. I needed the help I got from Support Connection to bring me to this point. Support Connection gave me coping skills and showed me over and over again that I was not alone.”