Monday, October 21, 2002

Survivor meeting cancer fight head-on

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cathy Halloran does not shy away from cancer.

Cathy Halloran gets a hug from her sister, Cheryl Hardin, after they turned in $7,572 in pledges Sunday.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
Just before the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk Sunday, a group of survivors on the P&G Pavilion stage proudly, but quietly, shared their names and the number of years they've survived breast cancer.

But when Mrs. Halloran got the microphone, she belted it out. "Cathy Halloran - nine-month survivor!" the Highland Heights woman said, thrusting an arm into the air.

That's so like her.

"She's the most upbeat person," said Diane Mason, a first-grade teacher at Johnson School in Fort Thomas, where she works with Mrs. Halloran, a teacher's assistant in the early childhood program. "Her positive attitude was a key ingredient in getting her through this."

"Survivor Cathy Halloran's Chicks & Chucks" - her team of 135 family members and friends - were among more than 10,500 walkers to raise money for breast cancer research.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, accounting for nearly one in three cancers diagnosed in American women. Walkers raised about $510,000 this year. Last year, 9,000 walkers raised $500,000.

When Mrs. Halloran learned her team raised $7,572, she hugged her sister, Cheryl Hardin, who's been instrumental in helping her battle breast cancer. Her sister has survived, Mrs. Hardin said, because of her faith, the love and support of family and friends, and her will to live.

"Cathy is just truly a phenomenal person," the Bellevue woman said. "I was with her every step of the way. There wasn't one day when she was negative about anything, even after chemotherapy."

Mrs. Halloran also credits her mother, Shirley Youtsey, who died five years ago from a heart attack and stroke. "I know she's with me every day. ... I talked to my Mom and God a lot during my ordeal." Her mother's influence even spread to the team name. She used to call her women friends "chicks."

In June 2001, Mrs. Halloran discovered a lump through breast self-exam. A mammogram the previous December was normal.

And so, she thinks recent study results that doubt the value of breast self-exams are bunk. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center followed a quarter-million Chinese workers for 10 years and released results this month.

"Self breast exams save lives," she said. "I'm an example of that."

A biopsy revealed cancer, and she had a mastectomy in August 2001. She's also had 12 lymph nodes removed. One showed cancer.

Mrs. Halloran started chemotherapy Sept. 5, 2001, and finished Jan. 30. She shed her wig in April at a No Mo Chemo party attended by 350 people at her church, St. Catherine of Siena in Fort Thomas.

Tests since chemo show she is cancer-free.

"My next set of tests is Nov. 1, which is All Saints Day. I did that on purpose."

Despite the cancer, Mrs. Halloran feels more at peace in her life than ever before. Cancer is not the best thing that's happened to her, she said, but it's the most inspirational.

"I would not change a single thing that's happened to me this past year," she said. "What cancer takes away, it gives me back more than I could imagine. I feel it's a gift from God so I can do what I do best. ... I just want to help past, present and future breast cancer patients."


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