0

Breast cancer survivors encouraged to share their stories

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Chris Martin is one of a dozen breast cancer survivors featured on the Wall of Hope at Rockdale Medical Center. Organizers are encouraging the community to submit nominees for a new Wall of Hope to be erected in October.

Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith Chris Martin is one of a dozen breast cancer survivors featured on the Wall of Hope at Rockdale Medical Center. Organizers are encouraging the community to submit nominees for a new Wall of Hope to be erected in October.

Chris Martin nursed her husband through Alzheimer's disease for 10 years until his death in summer 2010. The day after his memorial services, doctors gave her the news that she had bladder cancer. After successful treatment of the disease, Martin had one more battle on her hands -- doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer.

She opted for a double mastectomy, and underwent months of chemotherapy. Just last month, she finished her last cancer drug and is now cancer-free.

Through it all, she never gave up hope, said the mother of two and grandmother of five.

"That's why I had to keep on going, I don't want to give them up," said Martin. "I just can't be more thankful it worked out well for me."

Martin's photographic portrait, along with that of 11 other women who survived breast cancer, hangs on the wall near the Women's Diagnostic Center at Rockdale Medical Center. The display, called the Wall of Hope, is sponsored by the Kim Atkins Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to the promotion of early detection of breast cancer and education on prevention, treatment options and recovery.

This year, organizers are searching for 12 more breast cancer survivors to adorn the wall and are asking the community to nominate candidates. Nomination forms are available at the RMC Women's Diagnostic Center and must be turned in by Sept. 28. Nominees will be contacted by the first week of October and the 2012 portrait selection will erected at the end of October.

People can nominate themselves, friends or loved ones who have survived breast cancer. Nominees must be Rockdale County residents. Entrants are asked to submit an explanation of how the person has been an example of hope and strength to friends and supporters.

"I think it's an inspiration to other people in the community," said Brenda Edwards, who is the executive director of the Kim Atkins Foundation, a breast cancer survivor, and Wall of Hope participant. "They are an example that life goes on, breast cancer is a bump in the road, a hurdle, and not only can I do it, but you can too."

The Kim Atkins Foundation is named after an Edwards Middle School teacher who died in 1999 at the age of 32 of breast cancer.

Started in 2006, the Foundation raised $90,000 to purchase computer aided detection and digital mammography equipment for the Rockdale Medical Center.

Martin said the equipment may have saved her life.

"With the new machine, they found this little tiny place, they didn't think was anything," she said. "If it hadn't been for that machine, I might still not know."

The nonprofit holds several fundraisers each year, with one of the most lucrative being the Kim Atkins Tennis Tournament, held each August.

The 2012 tournament garnered close to $40,000 and, in a recent donation separate from the tournament, the Foundation received a $42,000 contribution from Rockdale resident Pat Stapley, who left the money to the nonprofit after she died in June 2011.

Fundraisers and donations are allowing the Foundation to pursue its latest endeavor -- vouchers for mammograms to uninsured or underinsured women at both Rockdale Medical Center and Newton Medical Center.

Since implementing the program in November 2011, the Foundation has provided mammograms to 105 women, in addition to paying for any needed follow-up MRIs, diagnostic mammograms or sonograms.

"We're doing a booming business," said Edwards.

To learn more, visit www.kimatkins.net.