Nancy Folely on how Breast Cancer has impacted her life:
I am proud of CalWOF for providing a platform for breast cancer awareness. This isn’t something we had to do, but we wanted to do.— Nancy Foley, Retired Chief Fish and Wildlife Officer & board of directors at CalWOF
Like so many others, this cancer, breast cancer, has helped me see personal fear and real courage from others. My first exposure was running the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer runs. As I ran, I had tears in my eyes feeling the weight of the grief over those that had lost the battle and yet the celebration of those that had survived. I ran those awareness runs for years. My next encounter was through Assistant Chief Carmel Babich whom I worked with and am lucky enough to call a good friend. She lost her mother and her sister to this beast of a cancer. She also had another sister in treatment for the same thing (who has survived). Then Carmel had many anomalies with breast cells mutating. After many surgical biopsies she made the decision to have a double mastectomy. I was moved to tears for the change she had to make in her life, but like the feelings I had at the runs, I was filled with joy as I could celebrate her life and our friendship in person.
Now, many others both in my family and with those I call friends have experienced the fear of the diagnosis. They have all survived thanks to early detection and advances in care. For me, I will stand beside them, hold their hands and the hands of those that care most for them. I have given them all a piece of my heart and some of my strength which I know will come back tenfold if I ever hear the words of you have breast cancer.
I am proud of CalWOF for providing a platform for breast cancer awareness. This isn’t something we had to do, but we wanted to do knowing how many Wildlife Officers have been impacted by disease. We are donating all the money raised by the pink patches to the Susan G Komen Foundation in hopes that one day we can say that breast cancer has a cure.
Rebecca Hartman on how Breast Cancer has impacted her life:
I am proud to wear the pink shoulder patches during the month of October— Captain Rebecca Hartman, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Many women close to me have fought breast cancer, including my aunts, good friends, and stepmother- twice. I have seen early detection save one of my friend’s lives. I have watched as amazing women became weak and bald with treatment, and smiled and held their hands, trying to be supportive at the appointment I’d driven them to. The constant advances in treatment have saved my friends and family members, but required months of treatments/procedures that required a village of support to survive. These women have shown me how much strength they truly possessed, and have caused me to have a new view of who a person really is, beyond the shape of their body. I am proud to wear the pink shoulder patches during the month of October, and appreciate the opportunity to raise awareness and support for the fight against breast cancer.
Stephanie McNulty on how Breast Cancer has impacted her life:
How has breast cancer affected my life.. A better question is how has it not affected me.— Lieutenant Specialist Stephanie McNulty, California Fish and Wildlife
My first exposure to breast cancer was when I was about 16 years old. My grandmother had breast cancer but they were able to remove it. I remember her showing me her scars where she’d had a lumpectomy and explaining how they removed some cancer, but I didn’t really understand it. People didn’t talk much about breast cancer back then, especially not to younger women. A few years later, my aunt was battling breast cancer and undergoing crude radiation treatments on her left breast that ended up damaging her heart. They had no idea that the direct radiation on the cancer tissue was going to damage the heart tissue as well. She ended up having a total mastectomy (removal of the entire breast) which ended up saving her life and I’m blessed to still have her around today. Another few years down the road, my grandmother’s cancer returned and metastasized into her lungs. It claimed her life 3 months later.
My most recent and shocking reunion with breast cancer was over these past two years. In 2019, my childhood friend, Catherine, turned 40. Her doctor recommended she start doing annual mammograms as part of her normal annual check up. During her very first mammogram, they found a suspicious mass. By the time they scheduled a second exam, confirmed her lump, and got the biopsy results, the tumor had quadrupled in size. It was Stage 3 Metastatic Breast Cancer. Further testing showed she was “Triple Negative” meaning the cancer wasn’t caused by hormones or protein abnormalities, which would have been easier to treat. And the icing on the cake was that she tested positive for the gene mutation. She had the most stubborn, aggressive, and persistent version of breast cancer there is and Catherine wasn’t going to go down without a fight. She went through endless rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and endured painful new drugs in an effort to beat the cancer. You have to understand that Catherine was larger than life. Anyone who ever spent more than two minutes with her would be impacted for life by her effervescent personality, her passion for life, for animals, for health and fitness. She was a lifelong vegetarian, an animal rescuer and she completed a Spartan Beast Challenge in 2019. She was unstoppable…but so was her cancer. She kicked cancer’s you-know-what for almost two years but the treatments were too much on her other organs. She died May 4, 2021. I was fortunate to spend an afternoon with her in the hospital two days before she passed. True to her fighting spirit, she told me she wanted all her female friends to get screened for the gene and the every one of her friends better never miss a mammogram or she would come back to haunt them. She made me laugh, even in her final days, she was an avid supporter of breast cancer awareness, research and treatment. Instead of GoFundMe donations, Catherine asked that people donate to breast cancer research. She also loved the pink patches I had all over my office chair in her honor. Today I wore my pink patches on patrol and I thought of her. I had several people ask me about the patch and I was excited to tell them about the website and the meaning behind the patch although Catherine’s story is still too raw for me to share in person . If even one life is saved from early detection, Catherine will smile down from heaven and I will have done my part to help.