Hair and Makeup by Shanel Garcia, James Michael Hipsher and Kimberly Krellat at Imperial Salon and Spa.
Breast cancer survivors are passionate in their survivorship and supporting other women who are going through it. This month, we feature some local survivors who are helping others and changing the way we deal with the disease.
Dr. Joni Francis Oglesby | Vice President of Support Services and Title IX Coordinator, Florida Tech
Family: Married to husband, Jerry for 29 years and they have two sons
After Dr. Oglesby’s diagnosis of cancer, she knew it was important to keep a positive attitude. It is advice that she lends to other women who are recently diagnosed, along with getting a second opinion and educating themselves.
“Your journey is unique to you,” she tells women.
After her bilateral mastectomy, Dr. Oglesby took her time to heal and recover. “There’s a healing time that is different for each individual and there are different levels of healing.”
She changed her diet and started walking even more. She agreed to participate in research studies as women of color do not enter them as much as other ethnicities do.
“Cancer changes everything. I don’t put off things. I’m going to live today. It is important to me to live in such a way that when this journey ends, which I hope isn’t for a long time, that I’ve made a positive impact, that I’ve helped people.”
She increased her involvement in the community and her commitment to the boards she’s already on including Serene Harbor, BRIDGES and the Brevard County chapter of the Links, Incorporated.
“It is just the next step of the rest of my life. I foresee a long and healthy life ahead of me,” Dr. Oglesby said. “You stop the things you don’t enjoy. I enjoy my family, friends, job and my life. I want people to know that I’m grateful and appreciate all of the support I’ve received.”
Susan Ohlin | Cancer Program Manager, Wuesthoff Health System
Family: Two grown children – a daughter and a son; one grandchild
Ironically, Susan has worked in the cancer field for 25 years, but her own personal journey began when she was diagnosed in 2010. Her grandmother, mother and aunt all had been diagnosed, but she had just received a “good report” six months before a lump on her breast was discovered. Working in the medical field, she quickly had a bilateral mastectomy and immediate reconstruction done. “I am a super happy person, but it is scary,” Susan said.
She had chemotherapy treatments and lost all her hair. She kept a journal during her experience because of all the things they don’t tell you when you’re going through treatments.
“It changed my life,” she said. “You never forget those words – you have cancer.”
Cancer taught her to not put things off and to live every day. “I learned not to take things so seriously,” she said. “Every morning when I wake up, I’m happy to wake up.”
This year Susan is serving as the chairperson for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk for the American Cancer Society. The goal for the fundraiser is $275,000 – a tall order that isn’t daunting to Susan.
“My dream is to exceed the goal,” she said.
Kitty Hatton | Owner, Melbourne Dancewear
Family: Two grown children -– a daughter and a son; their spouses and their families, a granddaughter and grandson and another grandson due in December
A dancer all her life, Kitty opened Melbourne Dancewear when she moved to Melbourne and discovered that a dance store like it didn’t exist. Since then, she’s watched generations of dancers grow up in her store, being carefully fitted for dancewear and dance shoes. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, her strength and dedication to dancers kept her coming to work throughout her radiation treatment.
Now when she hears stories of diagnosis in her own store, she offers advice when she can. “Take it one day at a time,” she says. “Look for the silver lining in everything.”
A year before her diagnosis, Kitty, her daughter and granddaughter walked in the Making Strides event locally. The year of her treatment, she actually ran the course. Now she stays active by paddling with the Heart and Soul Dragon Boat team made up of both breast cancer survivors and supporters. According to the team’s Facebook page, “After the diagnosis of breast cancer, survivors learn to embrace life again. Dragon boating makes you feel alive. We paddle to feel stronger and fitter.” The team, which began in 2014, has already competed nationally.
“I enjoy the exercise, the camaraderie, fresh air and being on the water,” Kitty said.
Angelica Martinez | Code Compliance Officer, City of Palm Bay Police Department
Family: Married to husband Robert Frey and they have three sons: ages 3, 15 and 21
As a mom to three boys, Angelica credits her family with keeping her strong and remaining positive during her diagnosis and treatment. She discovered a lump on her breast after her youngest son jumped on her chest. Luckily, the cancer was discovered early.
Angelica and her husband did their best to carry on life as normal as possible for their children, even taking weekend getaways. She also joined a local support group called Beyond Boobs.
“These are moms with jobs, families and households to maintain while going through the same breast cancer diagnosis,” she explained. “Once a month we get together for dinners or mini-spa days and share our experiences, but most importantly we remember to laugh and have fun too!”
Angelica had a bi-lateral mastectomy and one month after surgery and just starting chemotherapy, Angelica heard about dragon boat racing from her son’s pediatrician.
Dragon boat racing helped her physically by giving back her full mobility after surgery. “It also helped me mentally; seeing my sister survivors thriving years after their battle reaffirms to me ‘I CAN do this!’”
She advises others who have been diagnosed to get a good medical team that you feel comfortable with and take care of yourself mentally as well as physically.
“Thank God every day for the day he has given you. Don’t spend precious time worrying about cancer.”