My senior year, Beverly A. Norton/Bove, my mother, battled cervical cancer in 1982. She was the first person I knew with cancer that affected me directly. I rode a city bus at night, after gymnastics practice in the suburbs to see her at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany. The nurse asked me to leave when they were ready to remove her radiation implant for safety reasons. I refused. They also removed her breathing tube. I stayed to hold her hand and rub ice cubes on her dry lips to ease the pain and swelling from the tube. Beverly survived and lived to grace the world with her glowing presence.
In 1993, Mary Fran Burke, a childhood friend and the sister of my brother- inlaw,- Leo Burke III, lost her courageous battle with cancer riddled throughout her frail frame. It had begun as breast cancer-the aggressive kind. She was a mere 33 years of age-not even old enough for an annual cancer screening. Mary's smile lives in my memory eternally. She was the first woman I knew personally who died of breast cancer. I wish she was the last.
I was diagnosed with early stage, aggressive breast cancer the year I turned 50 in 2014 following a routine check-up. The screening facility chose to use a 3-D mammogram for the test, otherwise the 1 cm size tumor would not have been detected in my densely fibrous breasts. I underwent a partial mastectomy of my right breast and a lymph node biopsy under my right arm. The tumor was successfully, completely removed and the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes. My biopsy, masectomy, and radiation treatment took place at the Fitzpatrick Cancer Center in Plattsburgh, NY. I am one of the lucky ones, and I have never been lucky in my life. This story isn't about me. It is about a disease that is wreaking havoc on the population of the world. Cancer research is at the precipice of a cure. The goal is to raise enough money to push cancer out of existence. I will be riding my bicycle through middle America to raise money for The American Cancer Society-specifically, Cancer Research from May to October beginning May 1, 2020. This is not a flashy multi-sponsored event. This is a lone ride from the capital of my home state of Albany, NY through small town USA, and ending at The American Cancer Society Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. My mother taught me to give to others when I have an abundance. I am doing what she told me to do. This ride is for EVERYONE who has been diagnosed with cancer, their families, and their friends. That's a lot of people, too many people from every age, race, religion, and Nationality. Cut Cancer to shreds at its source so no one has to tell another story. Thank you for your time.