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Meet Darlene’s Challenge on Race Day

Darlene Matthews is a force to be reckoned with. Sit down in one of her salon chairs and in addition to a hair-cut and style, you’ll get an education on breast health. As a 13-year breast cancer survivor, Darlene maintains a positive attitude and informs hundreds of women, particularly those in the African American community about their breast health and the importance of early detection.

Darlene celebrating survivorship at the 2012 Survivor Ceremony.

Darlene celebrating survivorship at the 2012 Survivor Ceremony.

“I give of my time and talents to make sure that 250 individuals every year are registered for Team Beauty All Over for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I am excited to say that I have the largest African American Team for the Columbus Race. Each year my team has grown and continues to grow as a result of my creative costumes to help celebrate survivors and remember those who are no longer with us.”

Darlene’s team, with close to 300 members expected this year, will all sport pink afro wigs on Race day and have all been asked by Darlene to try and raise at least $100 each.

“I am acutely aware of the statistics of how breast cancer affects those in the African-American community and I champion the cause to educate, inform, encourage and give hope. My salon, Beauty All Over, serves as a safe haven for women who are going through cancer treatment to come and select a wig to help them to feel beautiful. I share my story of survival as a catalyst for encouragement to let others know that attitude is half the battle in finding a cure.”

Darlene and her grand-niece at the 2011 Race for the Cure.

Darlene and her grand-niece at the 2011 Race for the Cure.

Since joining the Board of Directors of Komen Columbus in 2012, Darlene has taken her role as a breast cancer ambassador all the more seriously.

“In 2013, I was honored to be selected to serve as Honorary Chair of the Race for the Cure, helping to promote the annual event and attending health and volunteer fairs to increase registration. I work hard to increase my team fundraising and I approach many local businesses for sponsorship to cover the cost of registration for those who cannot afford it. I have spent months, weeks and days reaching out to members of the community to join my team. I believe that by increasing awareness of the Race for the Cure and the importance of fundraising, I am positively changing the lives of so many who may place their health last on the priority list.”

Darlene can speak first-hand to the importance of raising funds for Komen Columbus.

“After my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, I benefited greatly from the resources offered through Komen. I took advantage of the Komen-sponsored programs to rebuild my self-esteem and because I was unable to work, Komen funding was needed to help pay for my medications. I was also provided the opportunity to meet with a nutritionist and psychologists to ensure that I got back on track, mind, body and spirit. All of these things were as a result of the fundraising by individuals for Susan G. Komen. I am a living witness that all funds raised in Columbus stay in Columbus to assist people JUST LIKE ME! I can honestly say that without the resources of Komen I am not certain where I would be today! I am forever grateful and indebted to Susan G. Komen and all of those who raise money to fight and beat this disease!”

As Darlene says, ”every dollar makes a difference and I know firsthand how vital the programs Komen Columbus funds are to the community. I raise money and awareness of Komen and agreed to join the Board of Directors, because I want my daughter and my nieces to know that I have done all that I can to find a cure for this disease. My aunt died of breast cancer and when I was diagnosed, I was determined to fight and raise money to ensure that this issue would not impact my daughter and my nieces as it did me.”

Join Darlene at the Race and register today. Better yet, meet her challenge and raise $100 to fund vital community health programs!


“I thought being at the Race was enough …”

Connie Browning is a 7-year breast cancer survivor and current President of the Susan G. Komen Columbus Board of Directors. Read what pushes her to fundraise every year for the Race and why she doesn’t just “show up” anymore.

Connie kicking off the 2012 Race.

Connie kicking off the 2012 Race.

“I have run the Race for the Cure in Columbus for more years than I can remember and for the early years, I thought that being there was enough. I thought my entry fees paid for research and women in need; clearly I had not thought through how far the entry fee could go.

Through my exposure to the Komen Columbus organization, I saw what a great job they did in getting care for local women in need and sharing the money they raised with the national Komen organization to invest in world-class research. When I realized that Komen had played a role in every leading edge breakthrough in breast cancer research, I knew that ‘being there’ wasn’t enough. I needed to do more.

Connie with her family at the Race.

Connie with her family at the Race.

As a breast cancer survivor, people around me realized that my life was most likely spared by early detection and targeted treatment. It was not a stretch for them to want to help fund the very things that might have saved my life. I thought asking my friends and family might be a burden, but it turned out that they wanted to do something in support of my struggle and making a contribution was an easy thing to do in their busy lives.

So I asked. And contributions flowed in and grew every year. And as few years ticked by, inevitably someone in the lives of my contributors was touched by the disease as well. So they gave more or started their own teams.

Then my sister, Carol, was diagnosed and we found out we both had the BRCA gene mutation. I couldn’t continue my rounds on the speaking circuit for awhile; I was too close to tears. But I found the best information available was on the Komen web site about all they had invested in the BRCA research and how much they had learned. Now, my passion for Komen is reinvigorated and my voice will now be louder about my passion to cure this disease.

So my fund raising this year is even more diligent. Everyone wants to make breast cancer go away.”

Donate to Connie’s fundraising efforts here or register your own team online by May 3rd.

Why I Race: Stephanie Koch

Team Sue Sue Supporters SGk 2011Love and strength are what rallies Stephanie Koch’s family to participate in the Annual Komen Columbus Race for the Cure. They walk to celebrate the life of Sue Ann Koch and to be part of the mission to find cures for breast cancer. Here’s Stephanie’s story…

“Back in March of 2011, I posted A Story of Faith, Hope, Love, Courage and Strength about my mom, Sue Ann Koch who we lost too soon on November 3, 2009. Today I want to share how her story has motivated me to get involved with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and I hope it does the same for you. I created Team Sue Sue Supporters in 2009 as a way to show my mom how proud of her I was and to celebrate her life.   She walked that day as a survivor and an inspiration to others. Our team has participated in every Komen Columbus Race for the Cure since 2009 in her memory and in hopes that soon a cure will be found.

Over the years as my family has grown, so has our team.  Each of my three siblings now have children and they all participate. My husband’s family, who never had the pleasure of meeting my mom, has joined the cause and either walk with us or donate. Friends and co-workers have also become supporters. And, this year we even have friends of friends joining our team. Currently, Team Sue Sue Supporters has 11 team members and my goal is to get that number up to 20. This Easter  weekend when my family is all together and the kids are collecting eggs, I will be collecting registration forms and donations.

Stephanie and Brad at the 2013 Race for the Cure.

Stephanie and Brad at the 2013 Race for the Cure.

Race day starts with us gathered on the Northeast corner of High and Broad, wearing our bright green bandanas, and ends with a big party in my backyard. For us, Race for the Cure is not just about pink wigs, motorcycles, and crossing the finish line. It is about memories, celebration of life, and love. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my mom but I know that if she were still alive, she would be wearing that pink wig, high-fiving every single biker on High Street, and proudly crossing the finish line through the survivor chute.

Please join me, my family, my friends, and their friends on May 17 in downtown Columbus in support of this great cause. You can register for the Race as an individual, create your own team, or join Team Sue Sue Supporters. It only takes a couple minutes to register but it will change lives.”

~Stephanie Koch

Ask the Plastic Surgeon: Dr. Jason Lichten

Dr. Jason Lichten is a plastic surgeon at Central Ohio Plastic Inc.

Dr. Jason Lichten is a plastic surgeon at Central Ohio Plastic Inc.


In March’s Survivor Newsletter* we offered survivors the opportunity to ask questions  regarding reconstruction after breast cancer to Dr. Jason Lichten, a plastic surgeon at Central Ohio Plastic Surgery Inc.

Below are some questions we received and Dr. Lichten’s response.

*Sign up for our survivor-only newsletter here.

Q1: What is the approximate “life expectancy” of silicone breast implants? When, if ever, to they need to be replaced and how do you know (signs/symptoms) when replacement is warranted?

Silicone breast implants are one of the most studied medical devices in history.  According to manufacturer research, the rupture rate for the most commonly used silicone implants is about 10% after 17 years.  In addition, there are other issues that could arise at the surgical site, even if the implant remains intact.  For example, a woman may develop capsular contracture, which happens when the scar capsule around the implant hardens; or fluid may develop around the implant site.  I recommend that my patients see me once a year in follow up, or more often if there is a change, so that I can examine the implants and the surgical site.  The FDA also recommends that patients get an MRI after 3 years and every 2 years after that to check the implants for rupture.

Q2: I’ve completed my breast cancer therapy which consisted of a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.  What is the best reconstruction for me?

A2: The only person who can ultimately decide what reconstruction option is right for you, is you.  There are various techniques, which give women more choices to restore their shape after mastectomy.  The main reconstructive options involve either using a tissue expander/implant or using your own tissue, muscle and skin from another part of your body to rebuild the breast using a flap technique.  The most common flaps use a portion of a patient’s abdominal muscle, tissue and skin (the Transverse Rectus Abdominus Muscle or TRAM flap), or using the muscle from the back (Latissimus Dorsi Flap) along with an implant for volume to recreate the appearance of a breast.  Other techniques involve removing tissue completely and then re-establishing a new blood supply (free flap reconstruction).  Each surgery has its own risks and benefits, so discuss how these relate to you with a board certified plastic surgeon.

Each option can be performed either during the mastectomy surgery as an “immediate” reconstruction, where the process is started at the time of the mastectomy, or later as a “delayed” reconstruction months to years after having a mastectomy.  The right choice varies for each woman, depending upon your lifestyle, treatment plan, body type, general health, and your goals.  You will work with your plastic surgeon to determine the best individualized plan.

There is one specific aspect of your history that it is worthwhile to discuss here – specifically that you have had radiation to the chest wall following your mastectomy.  Radiated skin makes tissue expansion much more difficult and adds additional risks to wound healing after surgery.  Most plastic surgeons would opt for and recommend to their patients a flap technique as described above for better chances at success for breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

Q3: Is it ever too late to reconsider reconstruction after cancer treatment is finished?

A3: No.  It is never too late to consider reconstruction.  I have performed a breast reconstruction more than ten years after my patient’s mastectomy.  The reconstruction process is very personal and it is important that the timing and pace works for you.
This is important information, because nationwide, a staggering 7 out of 10 mastectomy patients are not told that they have the option of reconstruction.  For these women, delayed reconstruction may be an option to close the loop on a process that started years earlier.

Q4: What kind of questions should I be sure to ask about my treatment to make sure I have the best chance at a successful reconstruction?

A4: The most important questions to ask are designed to make sure you are comfortable with the doctor performing your treatment.  You want to make sure that your doctor is Board Certified in Plastic Surgery.  This will assure you that s/he has had the right background and training to handle your specific treatment.  You will also want to know how many times s/he has performed the type surgery that you are planning and how much experience s/he has with breast cancer reconstruction.
In terms of a game plan for treatment, you and your surgeon should discuss the different options for treatment (see the question above) and the timing of the surgeries (whether you should have immediate or delayed reconstruction).   This will help you to create a personalized treatment plan that best suits your health, lifestyle and goals.

Q5: I’ve heard a lot about fat injections lately.  Is that an option to help with reconstruction results?

A5: Yes.  Fat transfer is a common part of secondary breast surgery.  After permanent implants have been placed or a TRAM flap has been performed, fat transfer can smooth out irregularities or soften transitions from implants to the native chest.  Most commonly, I will use belly fat for this procedure.  Since this is a part of breast reconstruction, it should also be covered by health insurance.

Q6: What are my options if I’m not satisfied with the results of my reconstruction?

A6: If you have concerns about your surgical results, without question, the first thing you should do is go back and talk to your surgeon.  Have an open and honest conversation about what bothers you and the two of you should be able to develop a plan to help meet your expectations.
Perhaps the most important way to help you be satisfied is to have a conversation with your plastic surgeon before your surgery to create realistic expectations of what surgery and reconstruction can do for you.  The goal of most reconstructions is to make the patient appear and feel normal in clothes and a bathing suit.  Reconstruction surgery is not the same as a breast augmentation, and the results will not look the same.  In addition, you may not have the same sensation that you used to, and you will likely have scars on your breasts.  Having said that, however, there are many options and results are better than they have ever been.

Q7: How should I expect my reconstruction appearance to change over time?

A7: As a general matter, the appearance of implants should not change all that much.  There can be changes related to the capsule around the implants, but for the most part, implants should remain stable.  That said, as you age and gain or lose weight, it is possible the implants may appear bigger or smaller than they used to look as the proportions of your body changes in relation to the implants.
A flap reconstruction may sag or droop just as your native breast does over time.  It will respond to weight changes as your body does, but this can be variable, again leading to potential changes in the relative appearance of the breast.
In addition, if you have to undergo radiation or chemotherapy after your reconstruction, those treatments may cause the reconstructed area to shrink or tighten over time.  Therefore, if you know in advance that radiation or chemotherapy may be part of your treatment regimen, it is critical that you advise your plastic surgeon, so you can coordinate those therapies for the best result.

April Volunteers of the Month: Debra Pack & Jason Clayton

We are thrilled to announce our April Volunteers of the Month, Jason Clayton and Debra Pack! Jason and Debra work hard to secure dozens of fantastic entertainment acts that perform along the Race course. We are extremely grateful for all the time they put into creating a fun and festive Race course!

Both Jason and Debra share, in their own words, why they volunteer with Komen Columbus.

Debra Pack

Debra Pack

What (or whom) inspired you to get involved with Komen Columbus?

Debra: I have friends who are survivors and friends whose mothers are survivors. I’m inspired by their strength and life views. They are grateful for every day they have and every good thing that life brings

Jason: Actually Lee Oldfield,a former Komen Columbus board member, approached me about getting involved with Komen.  I have a background in music and connection to the music scene and she thought I would be a good resource. Besides that my Aunt is also a survivor.

What’s your favorite part about volunteering with Komen Columbus?

Jason Clayton

Jason Clayton

Debra: I enjoy working to support such an important cause with really great people. So passionate and committed – it’s inspiring. The communications committee is fabulous, and I’ve known both Becca Litchfield Thomas and Jason Clayton for years so working with them on the race and entertainment has been the best. And so funny – I knew Becca from our past professional lives and I signed up for information about Komen volunteering at a Yelp Helps event at Vital Companies – Jason’s brainchild. And Jason’s been a valued partner of Columbus Metropolitan Library, where I’m the marketing manager. So you can’t beat working with friends – old and new.

Jason: I really love to see everyone come together and give their time to such a great cause.  It’s good to see such a diverse group of people working together to makes someone else’s life better and it make me feel good.

What is the most memorable moment or event you’ve experienced with Komen Columbus?

Debra: I reconnected with a friend from high school at the finish line of one of the races. She was walking through the survivor’s chute and her shirt said two-time survivor. I didn’t know. We’ve stayed connected since then and she is one of the people who inspire me to continue working to eradicate breast cancer.

Jason: I started bringing my daughter to help me out two years ago.  She helps with set up the night before the race and gets up with me at 4:30 in the morning to help organize all of the entertainment with me. It’s a great teaching moment for her and we get to spend quality father daughter time together.

When you’re not volunteering for Komen Columbus, what do you like to do?

Debra: I enjoy exploring new places and traveling when I can – especially on beach vacations. And exploring Columbus – so much to see and do. I feel like I haven’t done it all yet and we’ve been here for 15 years. I also like to read – good thing since I work at the library! Watching my daughter perform as a percussionist in the Hilliard Darby High School marching band is fun too. Very proud of her!

Jason:I love spending time with my family. I’m watching my daughter grow up in front of my eyes and can’t believe how old she is getting or should I say how old I’m getting. I also enjoy hanging with my dog Jasper and working hard at Vital Companies helping our customers tell their stories.

Komen Columbus Board: Meet Tammy

Everyone has their own reasons for getting involved with the Race every year. For 8-year breast cancer survivor, active volunteer, fundraiser and board member Tammy Weis, it’s keeping the women she loves the most in her life around longer.

Tammy, far right, with Komen Columbus Executive Director Katie Carter and WSYX Channel 6's Maria Durant at Condos for the Cure in 2010.

Tammy, far right, with Komen Columbus Executive Director Katie Carter and WSYX Channel 6′s Maria Durant at Condos for the Cure in 2010.

“As an almost 8-year breast cancer survivor, there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not grateful. Grateful for the wonderful care I had access to here in Central Ohio. Grateful my cancer was found early and that I had, for once in my life, been faithful about my screening. Grateful that I was financially able to manage my illness without it making a huge negative impact on me and my family. Grateful that I had an education as an RN and the knowledge needed to navigate a challenging healthcare quagmire. Grateful every day that I am still here, still fighting and healthy.

When I began volunteering for Komen Columbus, I found out that my situation was more rare than normal. Many women don’t have the knowledge they need, or the financial capability they will need, or the support system they will need to navigate the breast cancer process. So many women I talked to had never been screened – largely out of fear of what that diagnosis would do to their lives – not their physical lives but their everyday lives with their families- financially, emotionally and physically.

Tammy crossing the finish line at the Race for the Cure in 2012.

Tammy crossing the finish line at the Race for the Cure in 2012.

Ohio has a long way to go as well. We are 32nd in incidence of breast cancer, but 4th in mortality. LESS women get breast cancer here BUT, MORE WOMEN DIE FROM IT. And that was just unacceptable to me. Knowing that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with the disease in their lifetime is a staggering number in my mind. I know way too many women I want around for a long, long time – nieces, sisters, friends, coworkers, co-workers’ wives. I knew I had to find a way to make an impact on these numbers. But what can one girl do?

Well, you can do something I told myself. The first year I began to really fundraise for the Race, I sent out a few emails to people I knew loved me, supported me and had the money that they could easily donate something. I also made the emails personal and told them why I was doing it. And guess what – the money came in. So the next year it was more people and more emails. Today, I’ve graduated to the point of “no shame” where I will ask anyone I have casually met for money! (Not really, but close.) They can always just ignore the request so there’s no reason to feel badly about it. With not a lot of arm twisting, bugging or asking people for money you know they can’t afford, I have managed to raise well over $2,000 every year for the last eight years.

Start by making yourself a list of people from your address book that you know well enough to send a request to. The website will give you templates to help with the first one. Remind them that every dollar matters and it doesn’t need to be a large donation. Remind them its tax deductible – who doesn’t need a deduction? Remind them why. EVERYONE is motivated to act by their own “why” and telling them yours may just be the thing that energizes them to act. My why is easy. I want to end breast cancer. Forever. I’m tired of it. I hate it. I don’t want to hear one more person diagnosed with it or lose one more great woman to it. I want grants to fund great programs. I want grants for research. Asking is hard but I suck it up and ask! So can you!”

Tammy has already raised $700 and is well on her way to raising her goal of $2,000. Join her on Race day.

Why I Race: Ruth Jarvis

Team Pink Sugar Captain Ruth Jarvis, attended the Race for the Cure for the first time in 2013.  After her dear friend Alicia McDonald-Hill passed away last July, she created a team in honor of her memory. Here’s her story

Alicia McDonald-Hill with her sons Andrew and Isaiah.

Alicia McDonald-Hill with her sons Andrew and Isaiah.

My inspiration to form a team for the Komen Columbus Race for Cure is my friend Alicia McDonald-Hill. She was a 5 time survivor of breast cancer until she lost her battle last July. She was an inspiration to all she met.

One of Alicia’s favorite sayings was, ‘No matter how bad you feel, get up, get dressed and put your pink on. There is someone else out there having a worse day than you.’ She was always smiling and had a positive outlook no matter how bad things were going for her.

The first Race I participated in was last year and my favorite parts of the Race were Thunder Tunnel and the Survivor finish line. I was taken aback by the attention and recognition of the teams and survivors throughout the walk. Tears flowed as I walked through Thunder Tunnel and watched as a friend walked through Survivor finish line. It was totally awesome! I was so impressed. Before I was finished, I knew I would return this year and have a team!

At the time of the 2013 Race, we had hoped that Alicia would be able to join us in the 2014 Race, but she lost her battle in July. I visited her mother and asked for her blessing to form a team in Alicia’s memory. The Komen Race for the Cure was an important event to Alicia, as she had not missed one for over 7 years. Alicia was known as ‘Diva Pink Sugar’ in the Chrome Divas Motorcycle Club. So with her family’s blessing, the team Pink Sugar was formed.

The response to the creation of our team has been wonderful! I have many friends and acquaintances joining Team Pink Sugar this year. I look forward to the Race and many more years of bringing my Pink Sugar team to The Race for the Cure.”

Join or donate to Team Pink SugarRegister for the Komen Columbus Race for the Cure today!

~Ruth Jarvis


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