Friday Oct 17 2008
Making strides in recovery
By: Kristin Withrow Special to The Press-Tribune
After two bouts with cancer, Roseville woman finds niche as volunteer
It was the spring of 2000 when Deryl Wallace was first diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. As with many women, Wallace had been putting off regular visits to her doctor because her schedule didn’t seem to have room for it. She had a corporate job, one daughter in college and another beginning high school and juggled all the needs of everyone else first. The diagnosis of cancer “changed my world,” recalls Wallace. She had to stop working to begin fighting for her life. Cancer is categorized into stages from one (caught early) to four (advanced). She’d discovered it in the advanced stages. After enduring the turmoil of treatments, including surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and a mastectomy, she survived the illness and came away from the experience with a new perspective. She said she realized that life is precious. “You cannot be a good wife, mom, CEO or whatever you are unless you are healthy mentally, physically and emotionally,” Wallace said. As she looks back, Wallace said she allowed the details of her busy life to dictate her life, rather than taking the time to have moments of joy for herself. She now implores women to take some time for themselves, “whether it’s a bubble bath, a weekend retreat or a yoga class” to enjoy being a woman. It was during her first fight with cancer that Wallace reached out to the American Cancer Society. Like most people who have not experienced cancer, Wallace knew the ACS was there, but she did not know about all the services they offer. She discovered a wealth of support service, such as a 24-hour telephone support line, drivers who are available to provide free transportation to patients to receive treatment and a program called “Look Good … Feel Better” facilitated by volunteer cosmetologists who show women how to camouflage the effects of treatment by the use of proper skin care maintenance and make-up tips. The program helps patients maintain their confidence and self-image. The Personal Care Council and the National Cosmetology Association support the program and donate a skin care and makeup kit for each woman who attends a session. When Wallace was finally cleared from her treatments, she began volunteering for the American Cancer Society. She found her niche in speaking at health fairs and venues that provide information about ACS services. Wallace began as a volunteer and soon realized she had an aptitude for training and providing ongoing information about the American Cancer Society. The ACS agreed, as she has held a variety of positions with the organization for almost seven years. Her current position as health programs manager involves working with hospitals, cancer and radiation centers in six counties to ensure cancer patients are connected with ACS and are receiving the various free services available to patients. In addition, she recruits patient services volunteers. In 2006, Wallace experienced a relapse in the cancer doctors believed they’d stopped the first time. It began with unusual pain running down her left arm. Her primary physician was unable to determine the cause of the pain, and sent her to an oncologist. There, she was diagnosed with a return of the cancer. “The cancer had metastasized to my bones,” she said In her case, the cancer had been “eating away” at two vertebrae in her neck, which resulted in the pain down her arm. She was rushed to San Francisco for emergency surgery. “I was lucky,” she said. “I could have been paralyzed. With the help of my faith, family, friends and ACS, I was able to make it through my cancer journey.” According to Maria Robinson, corporate relations director for ACS, more than 95 percent of women whose breast cancer is detected in the earliest stages survive. And, as a result of heightened awareness and improved treatments, an ever-increasing number of women are detecting their cancer earlier and surviving. On Sunday, the American Cancer Society sponsors its annual “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.” The walk is a 5K non-competitive event to raise awareness and funds to fight breast cancer. Since Sacramento’s first Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in 1997, the American Cancer Society has raised more than $6 million for the fight against breast cancer, Robinson said. Participants can register online at www.cancer.org/-stridesonline or at the event at 7 a.m. The walk’s “rolling start” is 8-9 a.m. at the west steps of the state Capitol. Last year, the walk raised more than $60,000 with more than 16, 000 walkers participating. Funds raised from the Walk support ground-breaking breast cancer research and many free local programs, Robinson said. Wallace said that if she could tell those with cancer one thing, it is “that you are not alone. If you need help, if you need a ride to treatment, or if you just need someone to talk to and to cry with, call.” The American Cancer Socie-ty’s hotline is (800) ACS-2345.