“My patient is a 40 year old single mom with four children who is post both bilateral mastectomy and oophorectomy with a high risk for breast cancer recurrence and other secondary cancers. She received chemotherapy first then surgery. Her health insurance is not great and she has close to $10,000 in co-insurance payments that are due to her oncologist who treated her regardless of her ability to pay. Lots of breast and pancreatic cancers in her siblings and her mother’s side of family that have taken a toll on the entire family. The patient has raised her children in USA but originally came from Trinidad. There have been many hardships and treatment side effects that warrant her needing groceries, maid service and some assistance with co-pays. I’ve tried other avenues for co pays without success thus far. I’d like to request $500 in groceries to cover a six week period. She is getting ready to start chemotherapy and I would like to have four Merry Maid cleanings. I was also wondering if there is a way to help with co-pays or medical expenses through Red Devils.”
“Her cancer has spread in her bones and she is going for surgery Tuesday to have metal rods and pins but in her hips, legs and arms. She has to go to Baltimore and stay up there for several days. This has been stressful enough, but she also got a letter saying that her home will be foreclosed on May 20th. She has been fighting this battle for a year and has gotten several thousand dollars financial help on the mortgage both from The Red Devils and A Message of Hope (along with other programs paying for dental bills, medication, gas cards, utilities and food). I have coached her to make a back-up plan so that her family could find a more affordable place to live rather than trying to salvage the mortgage since she does not have enough income to meet her monthly budget, although she still hopes she will get her job back and work overtime to make up for lost income. I am sending her one of the gas cards we got back in January from you so she can get up to Baltimore for her pre-op and surgery.”
“I am writing on behalf of a 49 year old, stage III breast cancer patient in need of rent to avoid eviction. Here’s a little background info. She grew up in Baltimore, finished high school and went on to obtain her Certified Nursing Certificate. She was unable to get a CAN position, so she accepted a position as a patient escort, working full time until her diagnosis in 2010. She was eligible for short term disability which allowed her time off to have surgery and start chemo; however, she was not eligible for FMLA coverage. During all of this, she gained temporary custody of her three year old granddaughter. During her treatment, she realized she would have to drastically cut living expenses. She moved to a cheaper apartment and has scrimped by on her disability payments to make ends meet. She is receiving $847 a month for SSD which is a drastic decline in her average paycheck. She plans to return to work part-time, then full-time and she is currently on the “Ticket to Work Program” through Social Security. Meanwhile she has hit a financial crisis regarding her rent. She is two months behind and has received an eviction notice and doesn’t know where to turn. She has dutifully pursued multiple community programs in search of this needed rent money. Her plan is to use her entire Social Security check for the month of May to get caught up. She is hopeful she will be able to return to part-time employment by mid-June in order to supplement her monthly income.”
Pamela Robbins is proud of the fact she plays a role in the making of the crumbs the general public knows and loves as “Stove Top Stuffing.” The Eastern Shore resident works for Kraft General Foods in a plant near her home. Even when she discovered she had breast cancer, she still gamely moved lids weighing 30 pounds each and maneuvered a forklift to position 100-pound totes which balloon to 500 pounds once they contain product.
“We bake the crumbs, dry them out, and get them into totes. I am moving constantly,” Pamela says. When the crumbs come out of the dryers they go into a tank “which only holds so much. I have to get that one tote off and put another one on before the crumbs spill over the tank and start a back-up. That tote comes up to my chin, so I have to throw the lid up into the air to get it on. Pamela is expected to move at least 85totes each eight-hour shift, but has been on a hiatus for more than a year.
The 47-year-old has three daughters – all living at home, including the husband of her 27-year-old – plus cares for a 14-year-old she lovingly dubs her “niece” and is expecting her first grandchild this August: “all reasons I need to get back to work full-time and do something to help my family.”
Diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2009, the Dorchester County resident receives treatment at Shore Regional Cancer Center in Easton. Since her initial diagnosis, her cancer has advanced and now is in her hips.
“My job only had short-term disability. I was paid for 20 weeks — $104 a week. It’s not enough between the house and the children’s (needs),” says Pamela, who found a savior in the form of Patty Plaskon, an oncology social worker at the Cancer Center and The Red Devils contact for patient services.
“Patty is my angel. When I fell behind, she put me in touch with The Red Devils, because it took a while for the food stamps to come in. The Red Devils were a blessing. They provided meals and groceries and helped me with some of my expenses when I fell behind and that’s when Patty called them again and they told her ‘we have the extra funds to help Pamela.’
Breast cancer changed my life. I go to church now. I am more thankful. I appreciate my children a lot more and I am grateful to be here,” says Pamela, moved – at this point – to tears. “Before, I was thinking no one cared about me, but now I know that many do care.”
Medical doctors have not yet cleared Robbins to return to the job she loves. But The Red Devils are behind her 100 percent.
When Colleen Luzier went to Tina Sanders home last August she found little trace of the woman who had been Northern High School’s class president back in the ‘90s, a cheerful and dedicated worker for ten years as a Mailer III in The Baltimore Sun’s distribution center, a single mother with energies to spare for her only child, Jasmine Williams.
Tina was diagnosed in 2009 with Stage 3 breast cancer. “Tina was in a lot of pain, but never complained,” said Lois Kemple, Tina’s oncology nurse navigator at Union Memorial Hospital. Knowing how much Tina was struggling, Lois arranged for assistance through The Red Devils network. Not only was funding provided for Tina’s medical expenses and treatment-related therapies, The Red Devils also provided Chuck E. Cheese coupons so the family could celebrate Jasmine’s sixth birthday.
Lois also made a special request, would The Red Devils fund Tina’s Courage Collage, a collection of pictures, inscriptions and thoughts that would keep her present as Jasmine experiences life’s milestones.
This memory book is the brainchild of Colleen Luzier, whom Lois had met at a workshop where Colleen taught the art of making scrapbooks under the banner of her business, “Courage Collages” formed after Colleen’s breast cancer diagnosis in 2003. Says Colleen, “Scrapbooking is also a great way to help patients and their families process and work through what’s happening to them, document your journey from life as you knew it to the ‘new normal.’”
Tina was incredibly weakened by her disease, but her mom and daughter where there to help her put the scrapbook together. Like all who knew and loved Tina, Lois was devastated by her passing but took comfort in the fact Tina left behind a legacy for her family with the Courage Collages memory scrapbook. Rosetta Sanders, Tina’s mom, told Lois that Jasmine takes the memory book out often since Tina’s death last October.
At any age, sudden bleeding from the nipples is a mind-numbing moment for a woman. For Carol Sauter, it happened to her when she was only 26.
“It scared me to death, so I immediately called my gynecologist and he told me to come right in. It was a soft tumor, so it couldn’t be felt, but a mammogram showed several lumps,” says Sauter, who was diagnosed in 1993 with in situ interductal carcinoma, which was HR positive.
The native Baltimorean and a graduate of Archbishop Keough High School elected to have a unilateral mastectomy with no radiation or chemotherapy.
“In those days, you had surgery and that was it. I got reconstruction. At the time, I thought ‘this cancer thing’ is easy. I was single, and didn’t have anyone to worry about but me,” Sauter says.
That changed in 1994 when she met her future husband, Mike Sauter, had a baby in 1995 and “four babies later. One “came with my marriage,” explains Sauter, now 46, who is “mom” to children Katie 15, Megan 14 and Danny 12. She also has a stepson Eric, who is 22.
Sauter, who received an undergraduate degree from Western Maryland College and a master’s in education, was teaching in a Carroll County elementary school full-time and was supposed to schedule periodic scans and bloodwork to ensure her cancer was in check. But it was the summer of 2003 and Sauter “kept putting it off” until she developed “such excruciating pain in my back I couldn’t even open the door or pick up my bags.”
A trip to the doctor that September garnered some grim news: not only was the breast cancer back, it had spread to her spine, ribs and liver. She underwent chemotherapy for approximately 10 months. In 2009, scans revealed further activity in her liver and she has been on a continued course of chemotherapy since at St. Agnes Cancer Institute.
Writes Jennifer Broaddus, LCSW-C, an oncology social worker at St. Agnes, “When I received this request from The Red Devils suggesting a nominee, many, many of my resilient patients came to mind. I spent time reading the words to I Hope You Dance and envisioned Carol Sauter without question. She is an extremely inspirational patient who continues to undergo treatment for metastatic breast cancer here.”
Broaddus first met Sauter through St. Agnes physician Dr. Carole Miller, who had been nominated for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s “Physician of the Year” award.
“Carol readily engaged and almost single handedly succeeded raising almost $10,000 for the Society and a cause that wasn’t even her own. This really defines Carol as a person. She is the individual that no matter what her personal situation or struggles she is always ready, willing and able to jump or dance in to action and fight for a chance to make things better for others,” says Broaddus.
Sauter, who received housecleaning services from The Red Devils, since has gone on to organize fundraisers for a host of charitable causes and has involved her entire family in her tireless efforts on behalf of others, including this past December, The Children’s Home of Catonsville, collecting more than 400 gift cards to provide a Christmas like no other.
“As one watches Carol dancing through this life with courage and perseverance many are touched by her generous spirit,” says Broaddus, who once asked Sauter what cancer has brought to her life.
Sauter’s ready reply?
“Oh….it has brought me the gift of gratitude and the ability to slow down and truly appreciate what is important in life.”
It was May of 2009, the night of Angie Chamber’s high school reunion. She’d spent the day and evening mixing with dear friends and celebrating life’s milestones since graduating from The Bryn Mawr School 15 years earlier. Later, she and her husband Antoine settled in bed for the night, but they stayed up a bit while Angie continued to reminisce.
“What’s that,” Angie’s husband asked, interrupting her in mid-sentence, pointing to her breast.
“I said, ‘What’s what?’,” Chambers recalls.
She touched the spot he was pointing to and felt “It.” A hard knot.
First thing Monday morning she called a doctor, made an appointment to get the strange presence in her breast checked out. She asked close girlfriends to accompany her.
“My husband surprised me, and met us there,” says Chambers, whose husband is a firefighter in Anne Arundel County. The family reside in the Hamilton section of Baltimore City.
Because of her age and family history, the physician told Chambers it was “probably calcium deposits,” but ordered her to schedule a mammogram to be sure. She waited until July to get it done.
“July 20 (my doctor) called me and said I had breast cancer. But I thought for sure he had said calcium. ‘Oh no, my friend, it’s breast cancer,’ he told me,” says Chambers, who immediately called her aunt who is an oncology nurse at Sinai Hospital.
Chambers went to GBMC for confirmation and was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in August of 2009. Dr. Lauren Schnapper performed her lumpectomy. Chemotherapy and radiation followed, under the guidance of doctors Paul Celano and Albert Blumberg.
According to Michele Better, LCSW-C, oncology support services at GBMC, “Angie changed from a vivacious, active, and outgoing young woman to a fatigued and depressed patient. Although she had good family support, she needed assistance with housecleaning due to her fatigue and lymphedema. Angie was very appreciative of the housecleaning help provided by The Red Devils.”
GBMC staffers say that eventually her depression improved and she became an inspiration to other patients whom she befriended during her treatment.
In nominating her for The Red Devils Nine Ladies Dancing honor, Better wrote, “With her sense of humor and outgoing personality restored, she celebrated the completion of her treatment with a cake for everyone and certificates of appreciation for the staff. She truly captures the spirit of the song I Hope You Dance.”
Chambers, who is now 35, is the mother of daughters Mekele,10 and Callie, 7, and proudly uses “kelsandcalsmom” as part of her e-mail “handle.” She continues to work at the profession she loves – kindergarten teacher – and radiates true beauty and a generous spirit.
Elizabeth Barnett is a spry septuagenarian who refuses to let either age or cancer define her.
“A lot of people my age feel old, look old and act old but that’s not what I want to be and so I’m not. I have plenty of energy,” says Barnett, who was diagnosed in September of 2009 with Stage IIIC IDCA breast cancer.
Single, Barnett shares her apartment in Baltimore City near the Towson line “with her kitty cat” and works as a customer service representative for the management company that oversees her apartment building. She has three sons and three daughters who live nearby. One daughter had breast cancer surgery about eight years ago and Barnett has “lost several cousins” to the disease.
“I knew I had breast cancer nine months before I reported it,” says Barnett.
So did her cat, according to Barnett, who says the animal kept walking on the section of her chest that harbored the malignancy. Now that’s she’s been treated, the cat “barely goes there.”
Barnett discovered her breast lump by accident after banging her breast against a door. “It hurt, and I felt a lump. I didn’t tell my doctor what I’d found, but asked him for a referral for a mammogram. I knew what that lump was and I was full of fear.”
That fear kept Barnett from pursuing a mammogram for nearly three-quarters of a year.
“I was always afraid of dying and now I don’t have any fear. I’ve always been a spiritual person, but not to the point where I am now,” says Barnett, who says she “changed a lot” after the chemotherapy and radiation.
She believes it was “the chemicals” and her spirituality that caused her to transform into a “friendlier person.”
“Now I am so full of love. What happened?,” she asked. “It’s a miracle.”
Lois Kemple, an oncology nurse navigator at Union Memorial Hospital, describes Barnett as a “vibrant 73 year old female who took on the challenge of beating breast cancer with a radiant smile. Her treatment consisted of chemotherapy and radiation, which threw obstacles in her path. I immediately turned to The Red Devils for transportation assistance when her cancer weakened her to the point it was tough to drive, so Elizabeth easily could get to her many appointments that lay ahead of her. Once I shared with Elizabeth that her worry of transportation would be taken care of she felt a sense of relief.”
According to Kemple, “After Elizabeth began treatment she experienced many side effects that could have taken a toll on her spirit but Elizabeth didn’t let that happen. When she’d arrive at the Infusion Center she would always reach out to the other patients, offer a warm smile and encouragement, telling them they would make it through. She remained strong in faith and in sprit and truly epitomizes the words to ‘I Hope You Dance’ and would make LeAnn Womack proud to have written the song.”
“There is no need to be depressed when you have cancer,” Barnett says. “You know what to expect. The Lord knows what he’s doing and I’m not going to let cancer take me out. I will fight it and keep dancing!”
Tammy Kestler was in her mid-thirties and had just delivered her third child. Two weeks later “Out of nowhere, I found a lump,” says Kestler, who thought it must be a clogged milk duct.
At her six-week post-natal check-up she showed the mass to her ob-gyn who told her “Let’s get it checked out.”
Within a week she had a sonogram, then a biopsy. The report came back “Suspicious,” recalls Kestler. “They couldn’t tell what it was.”
She was sent to a breast surgeon who later told her that when he felt the lump “he knew it was cancer,” says Kestler. Surgery confirmed that diagnosis, which still came as a surprise, because, according to Kestler, it turned out to be a “rare, metaplastic carcinoma. They told me I had a one percent chance of getting this infiltrating ductal carcinoma.”
That third pregnancy turned out to be a “special blessing” for Kestler, who firmly believes that had she not been pregnant, she would not have found the tumor.
“I remember the swelling in my breasts went down about two weeks after I delivered my baby. Finally I could look at my breasts again. Everyone says that breast cancer doesn’t hurt, if it’s a cyst, it’s painful. But my lump was painful,” says Kestler.
Last December, Kestler turned 36 and is travelling to Harbor Hospital for radiation treatments Monday through Friday, after finishing a course of chemotherapy.
Hospital staff there knows her as “always very pleasant and very energetic.”
According to Harbor Hospital’s Diane Daugherty, “Ms. Kestler tells us she likes to bake for her family because it keeps her mind off of the breast cancer. She offers lots of support to our other patients giving them smiles and encouraging them to adopt a fighting spirit. To others, she is an inspiring story about what it’s like to be a young woman with a new baby who also is the mother of two others, but someone who just won’t give in to breast cancer.”
When Harbor staff discovered Kestler had lost her job due to her breast cancer and realized the family was struggling without two incomes, they called in The Red Devils to help with her co-payments and groceries.
“With the expense of baby formula and the loss of her job (the breast cancer) has created a real burden on the family. With all that has happened to Ms. Kestler she does “Still Dance.” She dances for her children; she dances for her husband, but most of all she dances for herself in the hope of one day seeing a cure for breast cancer. Ms. Kestler has shared her many stories and experiences that she has faced. Breast cancer does not just affect women over 40, which is the current recommendation for when to get a mammogram. Ms. Kestler is giving FAITH A FIGHTING CHANCE, and she certainly is not just sitting it out. She is going all the way and DANCING PROUDLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!May she inspire all women to DANCE,” says Harbor’s Daugherty.
Sharon DeShields did what women are supposed to do: performed regular self- breast exams.
The action saved her life when one day she felt a lump, and went to a physician who scheduled a mammogram.
“I’m single, no children, and there is no history of breast cancer in my family. I have a twin sister, and she doesn’t have breast cancer,” says DeShields, who became the first person in her family who did.
Film images indicated an immediate biopsy, which DeShields had the very next day. DeShields was called back within one week after her biopsy and was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 38.
A native of Federalsburg, MD, DeShields has always lived on the Eastern Shore, and most recently worked two jobs to support her needs. Neither one offered any short-term disability benefits which meant that when she missed work for any reason – much less cancer treatments – she experienced significant financial hardship and she turned to Pam Black, one of her oncology social workers at Shore Regional Cancer Center in Easton, MD for help.
Says Black, “The financial burden of the cancer diagnosis became so acute that food costs even became problematic as Sharon juggled her bills and income leaving her food budget shortchanged.”
A small woman to begin with, DeShields’ weight dropped significantly from the cancer treatments.
“The Red Devils provided assistance through Moveable Feasts which helped to offset this shortfall, allowing Sharon to receive appropriate and necessary nutrition when food was a vital part of her recovery,” says Black.
Although DeShields was insured by both private insurance and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, medical costs were another stressor.
“My secondary insurance information wasn’t properly (filed) so the bills ended up coming (directly) to me. However, I rely on faith and trust in God fully. That’s where my strength comes from,” says DeShields, who turned again to support staff and social workers at Shore Regional.
According to Black, medical bills that should have been covered were not processed accurately causing DeShields to have to go to court for nonpayment of medical debt. During the court crisis, DeShields navigated different bureaucracies to sort out the problem, successfully demonstrating that her medical costs would be paid by her insurance providers.
Says Black’s colleague, Patty Plaskon, “During her cancer crisis, Sharon was able to negotiate issues with her workplace, insurance providers and even court systems with a composure and grace that are remarkable in one so young. Throughout her struggles, she maintained an attitude of confidence and appreciation that transcended the difficulties of illness and financial hardship.
“In the song I Hope You Dance, there is a passage about not letting ‘some hell bent heart leave you bitter.’ Instead of bitterness, frustration or self-pity, Sharon chooses to live a life where the truly important parts of life, her faith and family, are predominate. She is a ‘dancer’ who sees joy in relationships with God and her family.”
Those at Shore Regional who’ve come into contact with DeShields say “It’s been a privilege to walk with Sharon, we are heartened by her strength, courage and truly beautiful smile.”
Suzanne Kahn found a breast lump around Mother’s Day two years ago.
“It really hurt, so my doctor said it most likely wasn’t malignant but ordered further testing,” says Suzanne, who works as a self-employed sales broker and is married, with two stepchildren.
That further testing showed Stage 2B breast cancer and Suzanne “came to the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center in Howard County shortly after that,” according to Diane Tollick, who works at the center and nominated Suzanne for the “Nine Ladies Dancing” honor.
Cancer, Suzanne soon learned, means “almost having to learn a new language. There’s an entirely new culture around cancer.”
One of Tollick’s colleagues knew that Suzanne’s discretionary income would only go so far, certainly not for services such as therapeutic massage, but the medical professional knew it would be of essential help to the successful treatment of Suzanne’s breast cancer.
“A diagnosis of cancer really shakes you, so to have massage treatments helped me relax and find some peace. It calmed me and made me feel more like myself and in control,” according to Suzanne.
Tollick notes that “We were able to help her through a variety of services, so we saw her on a fairly regular basis. Through surgery and then chemotherapy, she always showed such good spirit and determination – she fought hard and never took ‘The path of least resistance.’ She ‘took chances’ and never missed an opportunity to help other women going along the same journey as she.”
According to Tollick, Suzanne chose to be verbal about her breast cancer to help others.
“She has frequently spoken highly of the work of The Red Devils, sharing her story along the way. Suzanne never sat out a dance. Even now, she continues to help other more newly diagnosed women. I have worked with a lot of women in the past four years, and she is an example for all of us – definitely a woman dancing,” says Tollick.
“Let’s just say a freight train ran into me the last day of February (2010) when I felt a breast lump” in the morning and that same day at lunchtime went for a mammogram. Medical experts said it “looked highly suspicious” says Daiva Bebee, of Frederick, MD.
“I was healthy, strong, vibrant and thought, ‘this just doesn’t happen to ME,’” Bebee recalls thinking. It was a Friday, so she continued with plans to go off for the weekend with a girlfriend.
That next week her GYN urged her to schedule a biopsy as soon as possible and she did, at Johns Hopkins. She was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma, a type of breast cancer doctors told Bebee was “difficult to detect” and “very sneaky.”
Bebee, whose first name “Daiva” is pronounced “Dive-ah” as in “Godiva chocolates,” is a fighter and chose a mastectomy and chemotherapy because “I hoped to avoid radiation. I just wanted to get it out and get it done.”
Good thing Bebee has a fighting nature because when surgeons went in to perform the mastectomy they discovered not just one tumor, as initially thought, but a second tumor as well, with lymph node involvement.
Bebee opted for a bilateral mastectomy and vowed to battle breast cancer using some strong visual props to help defeat her foe, including buying pink boxing gloves and changing the ring tone on her cell to the “Rocky” theme. (She has since switched it to the Beatles’ “Get By with a Little Help from My Friends).
A sister 10 years older than Bebee who lives in Alaska also was diagnosed with breast cancer, but fortunately, hers was caught early and was a Stage Zero ductal carcinoma, contained to one area. Her sister still opted for a mastectomy.
“It’s tough to get a cancer diagnosis, even tougher when you are a mom,” says Bebee, who has children ages 19, 17 and 10.
Husband Jeff of 20 years “has been my rock and shows me love in so many ways and says it’s ‘his journey, too,’” according to Bebee, who decided to receive treatment closer to home at Frederick Memorial Hospital. Support staff at Frederick referred her to The Red Devils, which offered massage therapy to help with the lymphedema.
According to Bebee, The Red Devils help “Was like a gift dropped out of heaven, when you least expected it. It touches you to the depths of your being and it came at a time when I needed it most.”
Bebee’s friends also helped her by providing meals and transportation and their love.
“I feel like I’ve had this hammock woven for me (comprised) of faith, God, friends, interesting people who came into my life, who wove this, helped hold me up. The Red Devils and SOS were strong threads,” says Bebee, the SOS reference a nod to “Survivors Offering Support,” a group founded by Denise O’Neill who refers patients to The Red Devils and nominated Bebee for the “Nine Ladies Dancing” honor.
A literal fabric lifesaver was a beautiful quilt crafted by friends who dubbed it “Stitches of Love.” One side is comprised of stunning fabric purchased in India by a friend. The other side features an oak tree whose “leaves” are marked with well-wishes penned by friends from around the country and medical staff who supported Bebee through her cancer recovery. They presented it to her this past March just prior to her breast reconstruction.
“If a material object ever could have personality and energy, this quilt does. It exudes love and has brought me so much healing. I will cherish it to the day I die,” says Bebee, who has no plans of exiting just yet.
“Through it all, Daiva has had the most inspiring and uplifted spirit. When at Transition to Wellness she was quick to share and support others even though she was there to receive support. She has found healing by having a sense of humor. She has served as a role model to her children and others and will be training as an SOS mentor later in 2011. She has loved the massage gifts provided by The Red Devils,” says O’Neill.
“Daiva has shown grace and style throughout her ordeal! She is our Frederick Dancing Lady!”
It was Friday morning of Memorial Day weekend last year and Ann Beacham and husband Jim were stealing a rare moment when the house was empty. That is when they accidentally found a breast mass. Because their son was running in the state championship track meet later that afternoon, they needed to postpone a doctor’s visit.
Tuesday morning Ann was “squeezed in” for a medical appointment and sent for a diagnostic mammogram. This led to an ultrasound, which in turn revealed the presence of four distinct and separate tumors.
The radiologist gave Ann his email contact information and said, “This is very serious, please keep me informed of your prognosis.” The fear he conjured up for Ann by using the word “prognosis” not “diagnosis” was immense.
Because the four masses had formed separately, were fast, aggressive and multifocal in nature, it was decided that a bilateral breast MRI should be performed. The bad news was that Ann had to wait for her next menstrual cycle to begin before they could perform the MRI. During those three long weeks, Ann started to wrap her head around the diagnosis, build an amazing medical team, and look for ways she would be able to nurture her body, mind and spirit in the months ahead. This game plan included neoadjuvant chemotherapy, possible radiation, and numerous surgeries. She did some research and decided that massage/reiki and acupuncture would be very helpful in keeping some of the side effects at bay.
This is where The Red Devils came in and helped. Eileen Overfelt, manager of the Women’s Place at Carroll Hospital Center where Ann received her “wholistic” treatments said that “Ann found that a massage the day before each chemo treatment and acupuncture a couple days prior to treatment and a couple days following treatment helped keep the side effects at a minimum. She is so appreciative that The Red Devils provided assistance for these services.”
According to Overfelt, when she told Ann that the services would be provided through a grant from The Red Devils, Beacham “burst into tears.”
Those tears were tears of gratitude and were largely replaced by smiles throughout the six rounds of grueling chemotherapy and the “50-50” survival odds that Beacham faced head on, assembling a team of doctors that produced collaboration between Carroll Hospital Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital and St. Joseph Medical Center.
“While battling breast cancer, Ann has been a source of strength to everyone around her. She has comforted and supported other patients, made other patients laugh, helped patients learn to tie head scarves, donated comfort items for patients and has been available for anything that was needed,” says Overfelt.
Ann kept her spirits high, even engaging in some high jinx in the chemo treatment room. She didn’t refer to it as the “Chemo Ward” but rather the “Day Spa,” noting, “When do I ever sit for hours with my feet up, have people bring me ‘Cocktails’ and popsicles and blankets?”
The “cocktails” she was referring to were the chemo drugs she was receiving, including the noxious “Red Devil,” Adriamycin, a drug that inspired “The Red Devils” name.
A fellow chemo buddy named Stan was recruited during round two as Beacham’s horoscope said “to use your amazing energy and do something totally out of the ordinary.” Ann told Stan what it said and that she had a plan. She whispered to him that when her husband Jim and his wife Nancy got back, they were going to “pole dance” – and that is exactly what they did.
Overfelt notes that “‘The Dance’ was captured on a cell phone. Ann affectionately named the image ‘Pole Dancin’ at the Day Spa!’ They put smiles on many faces that day both the patients (oops – clients at the Day Spa) as well as the nurses. There are many other stories like this one where Ann has made a difference in the lives of others.”
“Her unwavering positive attitude, sense of humor and warm personality truly reaches everyone around her. As in the lyrics of the song, I Hope You Dance, when Ann got the choice to sit it out or dance…she emphatically chose to dance!”