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October 2011 Survivor of the Month – Gwendolyn Green
Gwendolyn Green’s Story by Elizabeth H.R.Osterberger
Gwendolyn Green picked Telfair Square to meet for her portrait because it is where all the Race for the Cure events start out. I entered the square and spotted her immediately – she is a tall, attractive woman with a great smile! Everyone of the survivors I’ve met this year has a great smile! We chatted a bit and I got to meet her grandson, whom she’d brought with her. She said he supports her greatly with all of the advocacy that she does and was a very handsome young man.
A survivor for 19 years, Gwendolyn was diagnosed the age of 37 and has been a warrior as well, she says. ” I found the lump through breast self-examination and it was confirmed by mammography and ultrasound. It was estrogen positive and located at the Tail of Spence. The Tail of Spence is close to the axillary lymph nodes and l I thought the lymph nodes were going to be positive as well. It was GOD’s will that they were not. I underwent eight months of chemotherapy and 1.5 months of radiation. It was the longest year of my life as I was on medical leave from my job for 11 months. I am a registered nurse by profession and to see myself on the other side of the spectrum was a hard pill to swallow. I was used to being the caregiver and not the one being cared for. When I finally accepted the fact that I without a doubt had breast cancer, I immediately began to set in motion plans to be able to help myself and other people as well. Educating myself on the different aspects of breast cancer such as the what, how, when, what to expect, how to prevent or reduce risks became a vital part of who I am today. I rejoice in being able to offer so much to others,” she says of her journey through cancer.
To her, Susan Komen is a symbol of strength, hope and courage for all breast cancer survivors. It creates an energy that keeps growing and thus has developed into a profound greater good for all those who participate and connect in whatever way best suits them. “I have connected in a way where I know that GOD uses symbols to make things plain, clear and useable. Susan Komen has impacted my life in a way where I strive to do more to stay alive and be well. Being alive and well benefits those who need support and hope. It takes strength to continue to fight in spite of any obstacle. It takes courage to want to stay alive after being diagnosed with cancer. I view Susan Komen as helping to educate all women who are breast cancer survivors and the women who are not survivors to keep fighting for life. Without hope people perish. ”
Gwendolyn believes education about breast cancer is the key. “Understanding breast health is essential for every woman. The age is not important. The sooner we learn how to take care of ourselves the better our capacity of life will become. Physical problems can and sometimes do increase with age. If we educate ourselves there is always the possibility of preventing what can become a chronic problem or bad outcome. Understanding about good breast health can be a step toward change in our lives and those who are in our sphere of influence such as mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, fathers and friends. Having knowledge of breast health can help to detect cancer before it can cause symptoms. The one thing to remember is that usually it takes years for breast cancer to develop, so therefore if we start the good breast health campaign in our lives early we will have a better chance of preventing, defeating and/or fighting breast cancer successfully.”
Gwendolyn is a very active member of our community – she believes in an effort to save lives, she thinks it is necessary to start at the core or the root of the problem. She knows that the way people are brought up and how they learn about health and their bodies is a powerful role in influencing how people take care of themselves in the future and knowing their susceptibility to chronic disease. “Learning how to take care of ourselves at a young age is worth more than silver or gold. I have started a nonprofit organization that helps children and youth learn about the benefits of healthy eating and physical activity/exercise. The organization is named Jump Up and Down “Stay Fit “program for children and youth. We have been in existence for six years. I also work with the National Black Leadership Initiative on Cancer (NBLIC). The Savannah NBLIC under the leadership of Martina Correia is a true volunteered based/grassroots organization that works. Our board members are mostly cancer survivors. We are an organization that reduces health disparities in cancer to all races and ethnic groups within the underserved population through education, community support services and other programs. I work diligently with the organization in our efforts to educate the community. Attending conferences that offer education for self-improvement and offer the ability to educate others are always in order for me.”
Gwendolyn is making great strides to make the community a better and more educated place. She is a true survivor and gives back as much as she can! I am so happy to meet all these great survivors each month. I’m glad to know there are people like this out there!