A Mother’s Love: Selfless Survivors Spend Holiday ‘Racing’ for a Cure
By: Vikki Hurley-Schubert, Creative Marketing Alliance
LAWRENCEVILLE, N.J.—May 3, 2016—Mother’s Day means something different to breast cancer survivors Karen Gordon and Joan Litt.
For these two Central Jersey residents, the holiday still revolves around family and spending precious time with their children. But it’s also about something bigger than themselves.
Mother’s Day is when Gordon and Litt start to fundraise for the Susan G. Komen Central and South Jersey Race for the Cure® so they can do their part to help end breast cancer.
“I started my (Race for the Cure) team because I wanted to do more,” said Gordon, a South Brunswick resident who was 41 years old when diagnosed with breast cancer. “I have really good health benefits and I had a wonderful support system with my husband, my kids, my parents, my friends and people at work. After I was healthy again, I realized everyone isn’t as lucky as I am so I started a Race for the Cure team for Komen Central and South Jersey.”
The Race for the Cure on November 6 at Six Flags Great Adventure is the primary fundraiser for Komen Central and South Jersey, funding more than half of the life-saving services, screenings and educational programs from Somerset to Cape May. Locally, the Affiliate has funded 70,000 free mammography screenings, provided one-on-one education and support for over 250,000 community residents, invested over $17 million in community programs and provided $3.7 million to New Jersey breast cancer researchers.
When Gordon was diagnosed with Stage 2A Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, the first thing that crossed her mind was her children, a 20-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter.
“I didn’t tell them, my husband did because it broke my heart,” Gordon said. “He told them I had this diagnosis and as a mom I was petrified. I wasn’t going to see my kids get married, that’s the first thing that went through my head. I was terrified, I knew I’d see my daughter graduate high school, but would I see my kids get married, am I going to meet my grandkids?”
After a couple of weeks, the shock and fear wore off and Gordon’s attitude changed. “I was going to beat this and I was going to win,” she said. “My mentality changed from I’m not going to see my grandkids to I’m going to beat this and I’m going to be a success story.”
Gordon completed four months of chemotherapy after a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and a hysterectomy.
Gordon is very close with her mother, who lives nearby. “She took (the diagnosis) hard, but she went to all my doctor’s appointments,” she said. “She went to the breast surgeon and radiation oncologist with me. She was extremely supportive.”
Once Gordon, now a three-year survivor, had her health back and completed treatment, she wanted to help others.
Her team of 40, Hakuna My Ta-Tas, participated in their first Komen Central and South Jersey Race for the Cure in 2014.
After her first Race, Gordon wanted to get further involved and now is volunteering as the Race for the Cure Registration Chair.
Last year, in addition to being a team captain and Race volunteer, Gordon, her mother, and aunt hosted an event in Millstone to raise funds for their race team and collected more than $10,000.
They plan to hold it again in early October, about one month prior to the Race for the Cure on November 6. In all, Gordon’s team raised more than $11,000 for Komen Central and South Jersey last year.
Bigger Than Yourself
Wanting to help others is what drives Joan Litt of East Brunswick, who spends a great deal of time talking about breast cancer, sharing her story and being a resource for other women.
A 31-year survivor, Litt has undergone three battles with cancer. She was first diagnosed at age 37 with Triple Negative Breast Cancer in 1985.
“I was so scared, I thought my life was going to be over,” Litt said. “I had just gotten my first son’s bar mitzvah date and I didn’t know if I’d be there. Three years later when it reoccurred, I had just gotten my younger son’s bar mitzvah date and I had the same feeling.”
Each time she was diagnosed, Litt rallied and came through treatment. “Here I thought I wasn’t going to live to the first bar mitzvah, and now I have grandchildren,” she said. “They have their date (for B’nai mitzvah) already.”
Litt, a long-time volunteer with Komen Central and South Jersey, got involved through a friend, taking her first steps with the organization at the Race for the Cure to help someone else in 2001.
“The first time I did anything with Komen, my neighbor had just passed away from breast cancer and I was very close with her,” said Litt. “After the funeral, friends and I were talking and the Komen walk was approaching a week later. We all said we were going to walk in memory of this woman and that’s what we did. It was wonderful and all the comradery gave me such a warm feeling.”
After her first few races, Litt continued to participate in the Race for the Cure through a woman she met while volunteering at a nursing home. “We’ve become close friends and we do a lot of Komen stuff together.”
“When I was first diagnosed, I had no one to talk to,” Litt said. “I will never do that, I will talk to everybody and tell everyone there is hope. I want to help people and let them know it’s not the end.”
To register for the Race for the Cure visit www.komencsnj.org/race.
About Susan G. Komen® Central and South Jersey
Susan G. Komen is the world’s largest breast cancer organization, funding more breast cancer research than any other nonprofit while providing real-time help to those facing the disease. Through events like the Komen Central and South Jersey Race for the Cure®, Komen Central and South Jersey has funded 70,000 free mammography screenings, provided one-on-one education and support for over 250,000 community residents, invested over $17 million in community programs and provided $3.7 million to New Jersey breast cancer researchers. For more information, call 609-896-1201 or visit komencsnj.org.
The Gordon Family has been dealing with breast cancer for three years since Karen Gordon’s diagnosis. Howard and Karen Gordon, stand behind their children Howard and Samantha Gordon. Karen Gordon serves as a Susan G. Komen Central and South Jersey Race for the Cure® team captain, fundraiser and race volunteer.
The Litt family has been dealing with breast cancer for more than 30 years. Joan Litt, a three-time breast cancer survivor and Susan G. Komen Central and South Jersey Race for the Cure® participant and fundraiser (center), with son Dan Litt (far left), husband Bruce Litt (center), and son Brian Litt (far right).