For Women Only offers inspiration, highlighted by cancer survivors
By Ginny Kropf, correspondent
LYNDONVILLE – The 22nd annual For Women Only was a night to celebrate and educate women, said Cindy Perry, director of education, wellness and marketing at Orleans Community Health’s Community Partners.
It also presented a bit of a challenge when half way through the evening, the power in the Lyndonville area went out, and the only light available was from the ladies’ cell phones.
The event not only celebrates cancer survivors, but provides an evening of entertainment while stressing the importance of early detection. Perry said that money donated to the event stays right in Orleans County to help underinsured, those with no insurance or those who just fall through the cracks.
Many of the nearly 200 women in the room have attended every one, while for others, like Kellie Hurrell of Medina, it was the first one.
Hurrell is only two years from breast cancer detection. After moving to Massachusetts for 10 years, she moved back to Medina in 2013 and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.
“I’m so blessed it happened while I lived here,” she said.
She said she thought For Women Only was a wonderful event for women.
Lisa Franclemont, coordinator of Cancer Services Program of Genesee and Orleans counties, said she just loves the concept of For Women Only.
“It’s not just for survivors, but all women,” Franclemont said. “We are all touched by cancer. Nearly everyone is either currently in the fight or a survivor, or we know someone who is.”
Women had an opportunity to visit several vendors’ booths, including wine tasting.
Local artist Carol Culhane designed a Tree of Life, on which she painted a dot for any woman who wanted to honor or memorialize anyone affected with cancer. The painting will be donated to Medina Memorial Hospital.
Guest speaker was Chelsea Young, who talked about “Simple Steps to a Healthier Home,” and the positive impact on one’s health by changing to essential oils and natural products. Nearly all cleaning and beauty products contain toxic chemicals, many of which are not regulated or tested long term, she said.
She urged women to read the labels when purchasing any of these products. She said the American Lung Association lists cleaning supplies and household chemicals among the top indoor air pollutants. Young said 133 different carcinogens have been detected in products we use every day, and candles and air fresheners are on the top 10 list.
She grew up in what she called an “unhealthy home,” where everyone had health problems. Her father was diabetic, her mother had chronic infections and she had to have regular allergy shots.
“The day we made the decision to try essential oils and natural products was the day we began to take our lives back,” Young said.
Two cancer survivors shared the story of their journey from being diagnosed with breast cancer to their successful surgeries.
Carol D’Agostino, principal of Kendall High School, said she doesn’t like to talk about herself, but felt it was important to step outside her comfort zone to help others going through the same thing. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer 25 years ago when she was only 32 years old.
As in many cases, cancer doesn’t strike when it is convenient. D’Agostino was an adult in college, trying to finish her degree. She found the lump when her arms were aching after a day of Christmas shopping.
She met with doctors and settled on a course of action. She was scheduled to start teaching in September and she was determined to meet that goal.
“The hardest part was that nagging queasiness in my head – would I ever see my grandchildren,” she said.
The surgery was successful, but then on January 2, 2017, her cancer journey began anew when she was again diagnosed with breast cancer.
“That’s the reason to have a mammogram every year, so you can catch the cancer early,” D’Agostino said.
This second diagnosis came as she and her husband, with their family, were preparing to go on a cruise in April to celebrate her 40th anniversary.
“I didn’t want to give cancer control over my life,” she said, determined not to cancel their cruise.
Her surgery was scheduled Feb. 14 and she opted to have a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at the same time – a procedure which took eight hours.
“My outcome was positive because I had regular mammograms and they found the cancer early,” D’Agostino said.
Marie Preston of Kent shared a much different journey, being a cancer survivor for two years.
Her story began with her adoption by foster parents and growing up in the town of Greece. She married her husband Jim and in 2011 had a job as manager for an RV park at a country club.
They had started a landscaping business and planned to move to Myrtle Beach, when in September he was not feeling well. He went to work, but collapsed at his desk. He was diagnosed with colitis and died in the night.
“My dreams, my plans, my financial support were all gone,” Preston said. “I was too young to get Social Security. I didn’t know what to do.”
A friend in Florida sent her a ticket to come down for a visit, and she was all packed to go when she discovered a lump on the right side of her breast. At 7:30 a.m. the next day, she was at the Wendy Logan Clinic, as she had to be at the airport at 3:30 p.m. After her mammogram, she was told she needed to stay for an ultrasound as they had found something in her left breast. Then she needed a biopsy.
“They told me I had better not go on this trip,” Preston said.
Then came the call nobody wants to hear, she said.
Surgery was scheduled for January 26 and she underwent a lumpectomy.
In April, she started radiation.
“While I was still recuperating, I learned I would not have a job in the spring,” Preston said. “I now had no job and was not up to par to look for a new one.”
Fortunately, a campground owner she had come in contact with at her previous job heard about her situation and offered her a job at his campground on Conesus Lake. It was a good hour’s drive, but it was a job.
“I finished radiation, started my new job and made new friends,” she said. “But I still started and ended my days crying.”
This went on for a year, and then her son James got her interested in the landscaping business.
“He told me I was not alone in my grief,” she said. “He said he had lost his dad and his business partner, also. He told me to pick myself up and dust myself off.”
She did – she decided to open a gift shop and country market to complement the landscaping business.
On Saturday, Preston’s Country Market at 14877 Ridge Rd., Kent, will celebrate its grand opening.
Dr. Mary Rykert-Wolf with Orleans Community Health in Albion, added her message about the importance of early detection.
She had two women in her life – one is her mom and the other her aunt.
“My mom had early detection and is here with me,” Wolf said. “My aunt smoked and should have had a CAT scan of her lungs, but didn’t. She collapsed in December and was dead by January. You have to take care of yourself. If you find it early, you’re good. You have to do it for your family, because when you’re dead, they’re the ones suffering.”
The evening concluded with a basket raffle.