Chapter Highlights


Third Party Event Donates to SPOHNC

When we first heard that Walk-SPOHNC had been cancelled, our chapter decided to go ahead with a walkathon as a Third-Party Event. A Third-Party Event is an event developed by an individual or group to raise funds for a particular charity. After expenses are taken from the income derived from the event, the proceeds are donated to the selected charity. Our SPOHNC chapter in Augusta, GA had such an event on May 9, 2009. And Wow! What an event it was! This First Third-Party event was to raise funds for SPOHNC. Our chapter was very honored to support such a worthy cause and was pleased to donate $1,716.00 to SPOHNC.

leann photoMy name is Leann Dragano and I am a Co-Facilitator of the Augusta, GA support group and have been fighting Squamous Cell Carcinoma since I was 20 years old. I am now 42. I went 18 years before the first recurrence. When I was first diagnosed, I was treated with surgery and radiation and then I moved on. I thought the cancer was gone forever. The 2nd and 3rd recurrences quickly reminded me that this cancer has tenacity and often comes back with a vengeance.

After speaking with my surgeon; and with the support and great friendship from my speech pathologist, I decided to start a support group. Both to these individuals were and are doctors of mine, but more importantly, they are great friends and sources of inspiration. I needed so badly to know I was not alone and to make this disease mean something other than a cancer that had devastated my life. These two women told me that there were many others who needed to know that they, too, were not alone.

My speech pathologist heard about SPOHNC and helped me to get a chapter going at the Medical College in Augusta. We presently have four couples and I often laugh because I am the only female survivor there. I am in a room full of wonderful, caring and determined men and their wives. They, like me, are determined to go on living and fighting more for their independence and acceptance than anything else. As many of you know, we often live isolated lives due to our disfigurements, inability to communicate well, constant pain, and the inability to eat. I know that each of us has at least one of these disabilities, if not several or all. But the men I have met come each month and share their stories with me and make me realize that I am not alone for they understand my struggles, because my struggles are their struggles, too.

Our partners come with us and share struggles that they have as caregivers, spouses and friends. They often deal with the downside of this disease, our depression, our feelings of failure, desperation and fear. We often have all these feelings at one time. What wonderful people they are to continuously deal with us. This Walkathon was for them, too. Because you see, I know for me, my husband is my backbone in this new life I have created. He is the one telling me to fight, not to give up, that he needs me here and that I can still have a wonderful life no matter what has happened to me.

In January, when I heard about this Walkathon I knew I had to do this! I had to come out and say that I am here and I can survive this cancer. It will NOT define my life, I will define my life. This cancer will not rule me, I will rule over it as long as I can! That is what this Walkathon meant to me.

As we began planning for the Walkathon, Lori, our Facilitator and I struggled trying to get the word out to other people. The news media just did not want to acknowledge this cancer, because the American Cancer Society’s Walk was on the same day. However, one of our chapter members knew writer from a television station here in Augusta, and this writer came out to see us that day; more to do a story on one of our members, who had lost his wife to breast cancer, and soon found himself fighting his cancer alone. As with most cancer survivors that I have met, his story was about strength, determination and a faith that knows no bounds.

Jenny Montgomery from Channel 12 News came and spoke with us that Saturday. We were able to make contact with her and had an opportunity for a story about our group at a later date a more in depth story about SPHONC and what SPOHNC is all about.

We had a great turn out the day of the Walkathon; as usual here in the South, it was HOT! But the day was gorgeous and we were determined to walk. We had T-shirts made up for each of the walkers and we began our walk right at 10 am. As we began walking and talking together we realize how strong this simple demonstration made us. By coming together as friends, family and other cancer survivors we were able to draw upon each others strengths and gain a better understanding of how important it is to get the word out to people about this cancer and how it can be overcome! What a wonderful event this was and what a wonderful time both participants and spectators had.

LeAnn Dragano
Aiken, SC

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