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A city filled with passion

BY KATHY LATOUR
PUBLISHED WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2012
If passion could cure breast cancer, it would be a thing of the past. The more than 7,500 attendees at this year's SABCS have brought a lot of passion to San Antonio this week. You only have to listen to the video from Debu Tripathy, M.D., our Editor-in-Chief, about hormone therapy trials delivered today to know that the researchers are eager for any news that will help them save the lives of their patients.

Their passion is matched by the advocates, the breast cancer survivors and family who are here, whether they represent a group, a type of cancer or themselves because they want to know more to have an impact on some aspect of breast cancer.

Take Betty Sommer from Houston. She is here because her daughter Stacey can't be. Stacey died in 2010 from triple negative breast cancer at age 39, so Betty, 64, an at-home travel agent, decided she would come for Stacey and learn everything she could about triple negative breast cancer.

Betty looked around for other mothers when she got here, but didn't see any. "Where are they?" she asked. "Two weeks after I buried Stacey, I was volunteering."

That was in February 2010, and now Betty has started her own nonprofit Causes for a Cure that is dedicated to raising money for cancer research.

Stacey Gaecke, Betty's daughter, died exactly one year after she was diagnosed. An elementary teacher who loved the "little ones" as her mom calls them, Stacey had two sons of her own who were 10 and 12 at the time. She was the light of her mother's life.

Betty still can't believe how fast the cancer took her daughter. Diagnosed in February, she finished treatment in October and told all her friends she was clear of cancer. Both her doctor and her mother suggested she stay away from that kind of language since the chances of recurrence had been high from diagnosis with 11 positive nodes. They were proved true so soon. On Christmas eve Stacey learned her cancer was back in multiple nodes and her liver was already very involved.

What Betty has already learned from doing the advanced Project Lead offered as part of the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation advocacy program, is that what she thought was one disease now appears to have seven subsets.

Raising funds for cancer research has become her passionate focus now. The golf tournament that helped Stacey's family last year is now helping another family through Betty's nonprofit. And Betty is looking for that place that she will make a difference near her home in Houston. She has money and energy to give and when the connection is right, she will help find answers to triple negative breast cancer. She is doing it because Stacey would have.

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