In the spring of 2008, Megan Lafollette learned that her close friend and colleague at Bexley Middle School was not only diagnosed with breast cancer, but would also be moved involuntarily to a 4th grade teaching position at Cassingham Elementary, just before beginning chemo. Megan recognized that it was too much for her friend to handle to be forced to leave a job she loved and was used to, while also beginning the fight for her life. Instead, Megan decided to step in and take the transfer herself. Shortly after, in the fall of 2008, Megan’s mom was diagnosed with breast cancer for the third time.
After having dealt with her mother’s struggle twice previously, and then dealing with both her mother and her friend being diagnosed in such a short amount of time, Megan decided it was time to do something big. Her family had participated in the Race since 2001, but Megan for the first time thought she would include her students. Thus, the Bexley Lions Cassingham Cubs for the Cure was formed in the spring of 2009.
“Breast cancer impacts not just the patient, but the children, nieces and nephews, cousins, brothers and sisters, and grandkids, etc. Being a daughter of a 3-time survivor has taught me the importance of courage, survival, positive thinking, knowledge, personal health and awareness, and most importantly celebration,” explains Megan. “Why not bring these lessons to my students and to the school community? It seemed like a natural fit to me, especially in a building which honors such attitudes and character traits.”
At the same time, the mother of a 2nd grade student at Cassingham was fighting her own battle with breast cancer. Alison Nakasako was diagnosed just three months after she had a clear mammogram, having found the lump herself, even though she did not regularly do self-checks, believing her regular screenings would do the job. But Alison was no stranger to breast cancer, being the daughter of a 22-year survivor and the daughter-in-law of a 15-year survivor. Alison’s treatment included a mastectomy, chemo and radiation, and just five days after her first round of chemo, Alison participated in the Race as a survivor for first time. Alison had always participated on the Limited Brands Team, where her husband is an employee, and has since joined Komen as a volunteer at health fairs, as well as serving on the Survivorship Council.
While in treatment, Alison kept a blog to chronicle her struggle, and Megan was secretly following. Megan says that she saw Alison as a source of inspiration; the blog helped her understand the complexity of the disease through the eyes of a survivor, helped her imagine what her own mother’s struggle must have been like and caused her to wonder how Alison’s children must be dealing with the diagnosis. This only reinforced her belief that she should help increase education and understanding of breast cancer at the school. So, when Alison’s son was placed in Megan’s class this year, it seemed natural that the two would join forces.
“I know I would not be here today if I had not found the lump when I did,” admits Alison. “My mantra has become ‘Know Your Breasts!’ regardless of your age. Starting awareness and education as girls are turning into women seems like a good place to start. Raising money and having a good time at the Race For The Cure is a great way to start having conversations.”
The first year the team participated in had only 25 members, followed by 50 last year and approximately 100 for this year. Megan hopes next year they will be up to 200. Each year the team finishes the race arm-in-arm. They work to promote the race through “Wear Pink” days and announcements on the school bulletin. Students are also encouraged to fundraise and will be recognized for their efforts.
“I am hoping that our efforts at promoting it at school will increase awareness and education about breast cancer, particularly with the students in higher grades,” says Alison. “Megan teaches 4th grade, so there are kids heading off to middle school next year that have been involved for 3 years now. I hope they will continue to be involved, and will remain aware of Breast Cancer.”
To support the Bexley Lions Cassingham Team, visit their team page.
Guest post by Lexi Sweet