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Woman organizes breast cancer rally

OXFORD - Oxford resident Kathy Coursey-Boes is accomplishing big things for just one woman.

In about a month's time, she convinced the office of Gov. Sonny Perdue to sign a proclamation recognizing Monday as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day in Georgia. Now she's organized a rally at the state Capitol to take place Monday to bring awareness to metastatic breast cancer, an advanced stage of breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

"I've never done anything like this before," said Coursey-Boes, 48, who has a family history of breast cancer. "I want to let the community know that we're here and underserved."

Coursey-Boes discovered a lump in her breast and was later diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in August 2001. Three years later, the disease escalated to the most advanced stage of metastatic breast cancer, Stage IV. Coursey-Boes has had to live with chemotherapy, taking medication and its accompanying side effects, a mastectomy and other issues that come with that stage of breast cancer like fatigue, weight gain and pain.

"Breast cancer is a nasty, nasty thing," she said. "I don't want to scare people, but they need to be aware."

Over the summer during her "chemo holiday," Coursey-Boes heard of various groups across the United States trying to get local governments to pass proclamations in recognition of metastatic breast cancer through the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.

She thought it would be nice to involve the local government - and still plans to - but she thought she'd try the higher powers first. When she contacted the network, they told her that no one had tried to contact the Georgia government yet.

In August, she sent a letter to the Governor's Office requesting a proclamation. She didn't know when, or if, she would hear from the Governor, but in early September, she received a signed proclamation from Perdue.

"It was such an easy process; I had no idea," she said. "I was over the moon and called everybody I knew. It was awesome."

But she didn't stop there.

Coursey-Boes has organized a rally at the state Capitol on Monday to bring awareness to metastatic breast cancer.

"I want to bring awareness to the fact that a lot of women and men are living with Stage IV breast cancer and that we need other avenues of continuing our treatment and extending our lives," she said.

At noon Monday on the Washington Street side of the Capitol, she plans to talk about her experience and her wishes for the future. So far, some of her friends, her sister - who is also living with Stage IV breast cancer - and members from her support groups will attend the rally, but she encourages anyone in the area to attend as well. Before the rally, she and her sister are scheduled to appear on WXIA-TV 11 Alive's morning news to discuss the issue.

Coursey-Boes said she wants to bring awareness to the general population and also the medical field, where she wants to participate in more treatments and tests to extend her life.

"Advances have been great, but we need more," she said. "There is so much that still isn't known."

She wants to encourage those in the area to attend breast cancer support groups and she hopes to start a Stage IV breast cancer support group.

"Some women don't need support groups, but some do. ... It worries me that people hide (having breast cancer)," she said. "I can't imagine how stressful that would be. When I was diagnosed, I was so isolated ... and I like to be able to talk to people."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.