Our Team’s Story: We Race for Eva

Race Large Banner_2014Guest Writer: Dawn Baldesi

Our story goes beyond my life but involves several others, both family and friends. My name is Dawn, and I am one of the very lucky ones. I was diagnosed with a rare genetic BRCA2 breast cancer after losing my sister, Debbie. My other sister, Sue, also was diagnosed, plus my father was going through stage 4 colon and prostate cancer.

After all this, I reconnected with a friend, Eva Lagage-Nettles, who shared the story of her fight with breast cancer with me and several other friends  – Kali, Diane and Lorri, who are also breast cancer survivors. Eva always gave us such hope; she never quit trying to educate us.

Eva and friends at their last luncheon with Eva

Eva and friends at their last luncheon with Eva

Eva’s husband moved their family back to St. Louis when Eva’s cancer had metastasized and treatments were just not enough to stop it any longer. Eva spent as much time with her family and friends as possible, always putting everyone else ahead of herself.

You can see the impact she had on the hearts she touched; just read the message below that her husband shared with all of us on Facebook the day after her service. That was the day all her friends decided we would continue to fight for her. In her memory, our team’s name is Eva’s Gang.

This will be our first time as a team at the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure.

Eva’s husband wrote (in part): “Evie, I said my last goodbye yesterday, sweetheart, encapsulated in my final love note to you, although I doubt anyone who was present needed to hear any public proclamations of my love for you. You would have been amazed at how many people showed up to see you off these past few days. The outpouring of love and support for myself and our kids is nothing short of breathtaking. You really did touch many, many lives in your time here. I always told you that your life was serving as an inspiration to others….”

Join us for the 16th Annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure on Saturday, June 14. Visit www.komenstlouis.org.

Why do you race? Share your story: prstories@komenstlouis.org.



A Survivor’s Story: Faith, Family, Fitness

Guest Writer: Erica Griffin, Breast Cancer Survivor

“Breast cancer does not scare me.” These were the words I heard from my doctor in September 2008. Though my 30-year-old head was spinning with a diagnosis that came out of nowhere, her confident words stuck out to me like a neon sign at night.

Up until that point, my life had revolved around my husband, Jack, my high school sweetheart; our three children: Tyler, Zachary and Katie; and my love of running. Breast cancer had no place in my life. I was convinced that this was NOT my life. But it was. This was real. And the lump we had been watching for over a year – and had been assured that it was nothing – was indeed cancer. Shocking doesn’t even describe how I felt. I have no family history of breast cancer. I have maintained a healthy weight all my life by eating right and exercising. And I was only 30 years old.

So after hearing my doctor’s shocking words, I clung to the only things that I knew to be true: my faith, my family, and my fitness. I knew that my faith in God would carry me through and that He would take care of me. My family would be my source of love and unending support. And running would be my normalcy and my strength. We prepared for the fight all together.

Erica running as a survivor in her first Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, 2009

Erica running as a survivor in her first Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, 2009

I had a lumpectomy and all the lymph nodes removed from under my right arm. Five of ten of them were positive for cancer. Following surgery, I had six rounds of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, a full year of targeted drug treatment with Herceptin, and I still continue on hormone therapy. I had treatment every three weeks, and my doctors and treatment center are three hours away.

The roughest part of this was during radiation. We made the drive five times a week for six weeks. I would get up in the morning at 5 am, have some coffee and prayer time, go get on the treadmill for 45 minutes to an hour, then start waking up the kids for school. I would leave at 7:30 am, drop the boys off at school (Katie wasn’t old enough yet), and we would head to my radiation appointment, which was at 10:40 am every day. Afterwards, we would grab a quick lunch and drive home, making it home around 2:30 pm, in time to pick up the boys from school. Looking back, I can’t believe I did it. But with the support of my family and friends, who all took turns driving me and keeping me company, the time really flew by.

Erica running in the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race

Erica running in the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race

I read a quote from runner Monte Davis that says, “Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time.” I have lived this quote in my own life. Throughout it all, I continued running. The month that I had to take off after surgery felt like forever because running is a part of me. It is part of who I am. To me, it means more than health and fitness, it goes beyond that; it’s “me-time” and during this time of my life it meant normalcy and strength. I also knew that it would only do me good to keep physically active during treatments. And boy, did it! I sailed through my year of treatment strong. With every step I could hear my doctor’s words in my head: “Breast cancer does NOT scare me.”

Our family has actually benefited from my diagnosis with breast cancer. It seems strange, but it is so true. It has put our lives in very clear perspective. We realize what is truly important. No longer are things such as money, bills and the petty day-to-day things that used to concern us, nearly as important. We have learned to take the time to slow down and enjoy each other, and to thank God for every moment we are given together. It has strengthened our faith and made our family so much stronger. And I’m thankful for the lesson.

Winner! Erica was the first breast cancer survivor to cross the finish line at the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

Winner! Erica was the first breast cancer survivor to cross the finish line at the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

Since my last treatment in October 2009, I have had the opportunity to speak at several women’s events about my journey with breast cancer. I have such a desire to help others. I want to reach out to other young women who have had a diagnosis with breast cancer and tell them to be strong and believe you can WIN this fight! Be positive and put it in your mind that you WILL win. Even when you think you can’t wait one more minute for that test result, or that you can’t possibly take one more treatment, remember to rise up and stand strong…you have a whole army of fellow survivors standing behind you, living PROOF that YES YOU CAN.

15 Reasons to Form a Team for the 15th Race

Team up for the Komen St. Louis Race!

Team up for the Komen St. Louis Race!

1. Bring family, friends and co-workers together to motivate and inspire each other for a great cause!

2. Provide moral support for a friend or family member fighting or surviving breast cancer!

3. Fundraise for a chance to win some great prizes!

4. Spark your creativity by developing a unique team name!

5. Be the first to receive your Race T-shirts!

6. Jazz up your team’s T-shirt by using Komen’s official teams logos!

7. Capture the memories with a special team photo taken at the Race!

8. Get all the help you need from your personal Team Liaison!

Teams contribute a great sense of community spirit to the Komen St. Louis Race!

Teams contribute a great sense of community spirit to the Komen St. Louis Race!

9. Learn team management tips and tricks provided in your handy guidebook, the Team Captain Manual!

10. Boost workplace camaraderie by forming a corporate team!

11. Connect with old friends and family by recruiting them for your team!

12. Get fit by walking with your team!

13. Earn bragging rights by participating in one of the largest 5K events!

14. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame if your team is shown on TV on Race day!

15. Help save lives and end breast cancer by raising needed funds for breast health programs for women and families in our community!

The deadline to form a team for the 15th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure is Friday, May 24! Learn more about Teams. Form a Race Team.

What Komen St. Louis Means to Me

Guest Writer: Susan Kraenzle, Breast Health Center Manager at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Every family has one…the “bossy” one. Ours was Joanie.

Of our eight sisters, she was the tomboy. She ran fast, jumped high and had a killer spike serve. She had a husband, three kids, eleven brothers and sisters and tons of friends. Joanie was 42 when she died from breast cancer. It’s been fifteen years. We miss her every day.

Joanie_SusanAs I said, she was bossy. That really is the only explanation for where my career has led me…she “put” me here somehow.

I became a nurse to take care of babies. Shortly after my sister died, our family moved to a rural location, and I accepted a position as manager of a new Women’s Health Center at the local hospital. We didn’t have much funding for the Resource Center I wanted to develop. After seeing the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, I made a call to our Komen Affiliate to request support for breast health materials. I had one week to submit a grant.

That’s when I learned the story of Suzy Komen and her sister. I read of Nancy Brinker’s Promise and got goose bumps. I knew how it felt to watch a sister die. I’m not sure how long I cried. Then I wiped my tears, blew my nose, and started writing. I am certain that Joanie smiled when my grant was funded.

That grant was my first experience with Komen St. Louis, and I have been involved with the “breast health world” ever since. In 2004, I became the manager of the Breast Health Center at the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. At that time, our outreach program provided care to about 400 underserved women. In these past eight years, it has grown to be the largest program of its kind in Missouri. We care for thousands of women every year…women we reach because of the funding we receive from Komen.

I am honored every day of my life to care for women in the city that Joanie called home. Every June, at our Race, I find a quiet place to remember my sister and cry just a bit. Then, I get back to work. It’s what Joanie wants me to do. She was the bossy one.