Hope Village Committee members find strength in friendship in the fight against breast cancer.
BY SUSAN G. KOMEN CENTRAL/SOUTH NEW JERSEY
Komen CSNJ’s MORE THAN PINK Walk
is a meaningful day unlike any other. Every year, thousands gather from all over New Jersey to participate in this event at Six Flags Great Adventure. Participants at the Walk acknowledge and celebrate those living and surviving breast cancer, while honoring loved ones who lost their battle with this disease.
Komen CSNJ is so much more than an organization; it is a family. We are a family of survivors, metastatic thrivers, caregivers, family, friends, doctors, researchers and volunteers all committed to making a difference.
The MORE THAN PINK Walk raises life-saving funds and awareness for breast cancer. In doing so, it brings together a group of like-minded people determined to fight for a better tomorrow.
Where Hope Lives On
Wherever you go on Walk day, you will see plenty of volunteers in orange shirts who help make the event possible, many of whom are survivors themselves. One of the most memorable parts of the Walk is the Hope Village tent experience, where survivors and metastatic thrivers gather together to enjoy breakfast, massages, makeovers and raffles. Among the incredible helpers in Hope Village are two wonderful volunteers, chairwoman Janet Marzocca and committee member Fran DiTringo, each with their own empowering survivor stories.
The Walk brought Janet and Fran together as friends. Their shared experiences and hope for the cause united their friendship in a way unlike any other. Both women had volunteered with Komen CSNJ for years, but officially met at a breakfast coordinated with the organization’s executive director Suzanne Corson.
“From the moment we met, we had so much in common; we were both breast cancer survivors, diagnosed the same year and we are the same age,” said Janet. “It was like re-connecting with an old friend that I didn’t even know I had.”
Janet has been leading the Hope Village tent as its chair for over a decade. Fran joined the Hope Village committee after participating for years with a team.
“I love participating in the tent and helping Janet,” said Fran. “My job is the coffee station which I love, because I get to talk to everyone that comes through the tent.”
Together, Janet and Fran take on tasks and projects to ensure the experience runs smoothly for its visitors.
“I know that I can count on Fran to be there and to take care of whatever needs to be done, from set-up to the day of the Walk,” said Janet. “She loves talking to people and people love her!”
These two see the strengths in each other that help to make Hope Village a truly memorable experience for others facing breast cancer. They have found “lifelong friends” in one another.
“Janet is a very dedicated, real person who I know is there to help whoever she can,” said Fran. “A large part of my reason for involvement is the friendship I made with Janet — I enjoy helping her and it helps me in giving back.”
Becoming a Family
After becoming involved at the coffee station in Hope Village, Fran’s enjoyment as a volunteer participation two more of her friends to become involved with Hope Village.
“I do have two friends that are breast cancer survivors that volunteer in the tent,” said Fran. “I helped them through their personal journey and they are very appreciative of that.”
Janet’s friends and family come out each year to support the cause as volunteers, too, including her husband and her daughter.
“They saw firsthand what I went through, and they know how special these women and men are,” said Janet. “They know what they have been through, and just want to give them a special day.”
She added, “They love the special atmosphere in the tent and always ask to come back, year after year!”
Janet and Fran are among many others who look forward to the Walk each and every year.
“It’s one of my favorite days; anyone who joins me loves the feeling they get from that inspiring day,” said Fran. “Most of all, I love giving back for my good fortune of survivorship.”
Janet agreed, “All the planning, preparation and gathering of gifts for the raffle leads up to this wonderful day filled with love and inspiration.”
They love to see some familiar faces in Hope Village each year, picking up a new strand of pink or gold beads, and they are thrilled to welcome new faces into the tent.
“I look forward to seeing some of the survivors that come every year, like Lola and Joan who have about 35 years of survivorship each under their belts,” said Janet.
She added, “One young woman was crying last year when she received her first set of beads, and it brought tears to my eyes and made me remember why we are all here: to end breast cancer forever.”
Positivity In Numbers
Both Janet and Fran’s positive attitudes are what kept them going through their own breast cancer journeys, and they continues to convey that positivity to others battling the disease.
Here, they share their advice to those facing a breast cancer diagnosis:
“Be your own advocate. Be positive. You can BEAT this; I did! Rely on your family and close friends. Don’t try to do everything yourself. People want to help, let them. Whenever anyone tells me of someone newly diagnosed, I offer to speak to them and offer encouragement and the benefit of my experiences with surgery, chemo and radiation.
Everyone is different. We all have different treatments, but knowing that someone else has gone through what you are experiencing and made it through is very reassuring. And when your treatments are over and you are well, pay it forward! You will feel much better for the experience. Come join us in Hope Village! There will always be a place for you at Komen!”
“I will quote my favorite inspirational saying, ‘You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.’
I truly believe a positive attitude got me through my journey, and that is what I try to convey to others. I tell them how I handled everything and I had lots of treatments, including surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and a year of targeted therapy with Herceptin. I am not complaining because I am here to tell the story!”
Giving back can mean more than volunteering at a tent at the Walk; it can be an amazing opportunity to connect with survivors, metastatic thrivers and caregivers just like you.
The journey of breast cancer can be scary, but finding others who have been touched by this disease can be empowering.
Most of our walkers say that the first year of attending the event is the hardest, because you do not know what to expect. However, once you arrive, you feel a wave of comfort and belonging that pulls you in. At first it seems that you are a family of strangers brought together by a shared goal, but eventually you become a real family encouraging each other to keep fighting and celebrating the life you are given.
Whether you personally have or had breast cancer, are a caregiver, friend, family member, or whichever way you are tied to breast cancer, we invite you to join us. You will find that your story is shared among others that can inspire you.
Join us at the MORE THAN PINK Walk November 3, 2019 at Six Flags Great Adventure to meet Fran, Janet and many others in the Hope Village tent. Register today: komencsnj.org/walk