Janet Hertmark

I have always been aware of Breast Cancer because of the strong family history in my mother’s family. My awareness dates back to the 60’s when two of my aunts had mastectomies and a third had already died from breast cancer. Since those years, my mother and three cousins were diagnosed.

My husband, Alan, and I both retired the same day in December, 2006. In January, we were searching for a together project and found a 3 Day 60 mile Breast Cancer walk to be held in October, in Philadelphia. Perfect! We registered for the walk and decided to dedicate our efforts to my mom, by then a breast cancer survivor. Five weeks after registering, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After consulting with doctors and discussing the options with our children, Alan and I followed the recommendation of the professionals and decided on a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Considering my strong family history of breast cancer, this was the best surgical procedure for me. The choice of treatment is a very personal and individual decision and women have to decide what is best for them.

My mom’s advice had been to stay positive, keep your sense of humor and help others.  In following her advice, I have been very open about my breast cancer. My name is given to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and I call and visit with them. I have met wonderful women through this disease and I have established close and loving friendships with them.

My post surgical activity was limited to walking.  So, my husband and I trained hard for the 3 Day 60 mile Breast Cancer Walk covering long distances. Fundraising had been a concern since, together, we had to raise $4400 drawing from the same list of people. The Tennis Club at Oxford Greens held a tennis party fundraiser and almost $1,500 was raised from this community. We were astounded. In all, Alan and I raised a total of over $12,000!

Five months after my mastectomy, Alan and I went to Philadelphia. The walk was great. I was honored by being in the Survivor Circle during Opening Ceremonies and chose to carry the flag “Optimism”.  Alan and I met wonderful people as we walked and we were the first to cross the finish line each day. On the last day, we walked in holding hands, then hugged and cried. We did it! It was a sensational feeling of accomplishment. Closing ceremonies were extremely overwhelming. Alan and I had completed the 60 mile walk in 3 Days. I was a new survivor and it was a very emotional experience.

When Bob McCarney formed a team from Oxford Greens for the Seymour run and walk, Alan and I signed up immediately. We had always been impressed by the outpouring of support by the Seymour community, and Bob gave us at Oxford Greens a way to participate. As the memories of our 60 mile walk flashed through our minds, we saw the same spirit demonstrated by the town of Seymour. Pink lines and ribbons are painted on the roads, houses are decorated with pink and residents cheer the walkers and runners along the way.

There is a Survivors Tent at the event that we visit prior to the walk. Each year at the tent, we “welcome” a new survivor to our sisterhood, and, together, we walk arm in arm to continue our support to conquer cancer.