For Women Only event is empowering for cancer survivors
LYNDONVILLE – This was a night to celebrate and be inspired, Cindy Perry said, as she welcomed the crowd to the 23rd annual For Women Only Wednesday at the White Birch Golf Course.
“Some of you attend this event every year. Some have been to multiple events, and some may be attending for the first time, but most of you have been touched by cancer,” Perry said.
In her own life, Perry said she had skin cancer and lost her aunt to lung cancer during the past year.
The evening’s message was, “Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean ‘me first,’ it means ‘me also,’” Perry said.
Jeanne Crane, who worked at Medina Memorial Hospital for 33 years as risk manager and infection control nurse, has been to many of the annual events.
“This is a wonderful event, and it sells out every year,” Crane said. “What I like is it is based on survivors.”
Cindy Baldwin also called For Women Only an “excellent event.”
“I love the baskets, but I come in general to support anyone who has had cancer, including my father,” she said.
Dawn Meland has attended every For Women Only since it started. She has been a member of the hospital’s Twig Association since 1972 and on the Hospital Foundation Board since its inception.
“Anything that’s for women and supports the hospital, I’m all for it,” Meland said. “The event is expanded every year.”
Guest speakers were Mercedes Wilson, a Medina native and resident of Lockport.
“It is so important to advocate for ourselves as women,” said Wilson, who shared her story of being newly divorced with two children, when at age 28 she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.
Doctors had found a lump during an examination in her early 20s.
“It was still there at age 27, but I was told it wasn’t a big deal,” Wilson said. “Then a new doctor insisted I get it checked.”
It was cancer for Wilson and it was being sped up by her birth control.
When doctors asked her for her family’s cancer history, she didn’t know. After a successful operation, 16 rounds of chemo and 45 radiation treatments, she founded For our Daughters, an organization dedicated to educating young women about learning their family’s medical history and being proactive about speaking up when something isn’t quite right with their bodies.
For our Daughters began visiting young girls in middle and high schools all over Western New York, Medina High School being one of the first.
“This year, we will reach 2,700 young women,” Wilson said.
Wilson stressed that a diagnosis of cancer does not mean your life is over.
“So many times I thought my life was over,” she said. “Since then, I’ve had twins, become a writer and have a television show which has reached more than 30 million people.”
The second speaker was Leslie Allen, 63, of Albion, also a cancer survivor. In November 2016, she and her best friend Terry went for the annual mammogram, just like they always did.
Only this time, things were not the same.
“I was called back for a diagnostic visit,” Allen said. “The next evening the doctor called and confirmed what I didn’t want to hear. I had a tumor, but it was small.”
A friend in the medical field recommended a doctor in Rochester.
“I called my mom,” Allen said. “She and dad have faith to move mountains, and I grabbed on to that faith with both horns.”
She had to wait six more weeks until her surgery. Her surgeon was all business when they met. Because the tumor was small, they chose a lumpectomy.
“I went Christmas shopping and came home filled with hope for the next year,” Allen said.
She met with an oncologist who decided on radiation treatment.
“I started my treatment on a cold February morning,” Allen said. “They gave me a poncho to put on, and there was a card on it which said it was made by students at Albion High School.”
Allen considered that a good omen, and as soon as she was able, she contacted the teacher of those students and visited their class to tell them how protected she felt wearing that smock.
Allen has now been cancer free for two years, five months and four days, the told the women.
“No matter what live throws at me, I will continue to handle it with grace and hope,” she said.
At the conclusion of the evening, Jessica Downey, who works for the Cancer Services Program in Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming and Niagara counties, asked for a moment of silence for those who have been lost to cancer.