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Cancer survivors share their stories during annual fundraising walk

  • Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Barbara Sink, Greenfield, 71, diagnosed with cancer in 1994. Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

People dressed in pink gathered in Depot Square on Sunday, Oct. 22 for a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. The fundraising event brought in more than $29,000 in donations toward a $45,000 goal. About 100 people, most of them cancer survivors, participated in the fundraising event. The Ledger-Transcript talked to six of them. 

Lorraine Dellasanta, Jaffrey, 67

Lorraine Dellasanta was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 1995. She has four children, two who were young at the time. One of her younger sons is severely disabled.

“It was like who is going to take care of him if I die?” she said.

She said got the call about cancer at night just as her two younger children were getting ready for bed.

“At that time of night you have to hide it from the kids and who do you call, you know?” she said.

Dellasanta said she called her good friend who wasn’t home, so she ended up talking to that same friend’s boyfriend who picked up instead.

“I have never met him, never to this day because they broke up,” she said. “But he had a good listening ear.”

She said she told her whole family the next day.

In October, she had a lobectomy and axillary dissection. She went through six weeks of daily radiation and then six months of chemotherapy. Dellasanta said her two older children helped take care of her disabled son and she was able to get home health care for him during that period as well.

She was finished June of 1996.

Dellasanta said the diagnosis didn’t change her life all that much.

“I’ve had a lot of other stuff that has happened so it’s just one of many things,” Dellasanta said.

She goes back to the doctor every so often for a mammogram. But she doesn’t think of the prospect of cancer returning all that often.

“It’s just like if it happens it happens,” she said. “And you just never know.”

She mostly worries about who will take care of her disabled son when she’s gone. Finally, one day she asked one of her older sons and he reassured her that he would take on the responsibility.

Judie Cole, Mont Vernon, 72

Cole remembers the exact day she was diagnosed with breast cancer; Dec. 23, 2010. It was just days before Christmas and the family was trying to get ready for the holiday. The diagnosis “put a damper on things,” she said.

“I was supposed to go visit family and stuff and I just didn’t feel like doing any of that,” Cole said. “So we kind of canceled Christmas.”

She had surgery in March and another one in April because doctors hadn’t taken a big enough area out. Cole did have to do chemotherapy, but she did radiation for about nine weeks in Nashua.

Cole said the diagnosis has changed her life.

“It makes me think differently about the value of life,” Cole said. “And the value of family for sure because my family was super supportive.”

She said her children came for the surgeries and have supported her through the whole process.

“Family is so important,” she said.

On Sunday, her daughter and husband stood on either side of her and Cole held a black-and-white picture of her son who couldn’t make it to the walk.

Sue Hugel, Swanzey, 58

Sue Hugel was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She said doctors took a were able to take it all out, although she has a spot on her breast that is also being monitored.

Hugel said her grandmother and mother have also been diagnosed with some form of cancer.

“We got three generations going right now,” Hugel said.

On Sunday, Hugel was dressed in an all pink outfit and was pushing a stroller with a pig in a tutu inside. She said she pushes the stroller to raise awareness about cancer.

Hugel said her mantra since the diagnosis has become “live for today.”

Barbara Sink, Greenfield, 71

Barbara Sink was diagnosed with cancer in 1994. Sink said her best friend from high school died from cancer before she received her own diagnosis.

“It made me really scared,” Sink said about her own diagnosis.  

Sink underwent surgery to remove her lymph nodes, then chemotherapy, and radiation. The entire process took about a year.

“I just kept on with my life doing what I did,” Sink said about how she persevered through. “I got a lot of support from the people I worked with.”

Sink has been in remission ever since. She said the only real problem she has now is that one of her arms sometimes swells because her lymph nodes were taken out. But that doesn’t even happen very often anymore.

She said a cancer diagnosis made her “more aware,” especially about the prevalence about cancer.

“I hadn’t realized how prevalent it was,” Sink said.

Linda Sutton, Peterborough, 57

Linda Sutton was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2016. She said the diagnosis was “pretty devastating.”

She said the type of cancer left her with few options, the doctor told her she would need a mastectomy. Sutton started dose-dense chemotherapy in March and finished in June.

In August, she had a double mastectomy, although the cancer was only present in the left breast there was a high likelihood that it could spread to the right one, and reconstruction surgery.

After Sutton healed from that, she started 28 days of radiation.

“I will be totally done one year the week of Thanksgiving,” Sutton said

She called the process a “long haul.” Because she had a double mastectomy, Sutton said doctors can’t monitor if the cancer has returned.

“There is nothing to mammogram,” she said. “So you cross your fingers and hope.”

Sutton said after the diagnosis she had to give up her job as a middle and high school principal.

She said the job was high stress and required 60 to 70 hours of work each week.

“That wasn’t good for me for healing so I ended up leaving,” Sutton said.

Now, she’s semi-retired. She works part-time and tries to do a lot of volunteer work to stay busy. Sutton was volunteering at the survivors’ booth on Sunday.

“I’m hoping this is something I can help with in the future,” Sutton said of the walk-in Peterborough.

Shirley Pawelczik, Keene,82

Shirley Pawelczik has been diagnosed with cancer four times.

The first was in 1960 when she was just 25 years old. She had just given birth and the doctor diagnosed the cancer during her six-month check-up.

The cancer was gone until three years ago when Pawelczik was diagnosed with skin cancer on her head, skin cancer on her face, and about a year and a half ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“It was a shock,” she said of the breast cancer diagnosis. “At 82 years old I thought I had escaped it.”

Pawelczik said she had 11 children, three of which she lost as infants and eight that she raised. Two of her adult children have died — one of a heart attack and the other in a car accident.

She said none of the four cancer diagnosis changed her life all that profoundly because there have been other tragedies in her life. She knows pain.

“You have to keep on going,” she said. “You can curl up in a ball and sit there and do what? God keeps me going. That’s the best part.”