Cancer Survivors Share Information, Hope With Patients

Becky Duncan and Jan Jenkins are both breast cancer survivors, involved in the American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- To anyone who caught a glimpse of Becky Duncan and Jan Jenkins laughing and chatting over coffee at Topeka's Classic Bean, you'd think the two were old friends. But in fact, they were meeting for the first time Monday. Becky and Jan share a special bond; both have fought breast cancer.

Becky was diagnosed in November 2005. Jan was just diagnosed in early March. Both women are cancer-free today.

What brought them together over coffee on this Fall day is the connection the two share through the American Cancer Society's Reach to Recovery program. Duncan volunteers with the program, helping provide others, like Jan, with information and support.

"The doctors know a lot," Becky said, "but someone who's been through the journey can give you insight that a doctor and nurses just can't."

Becky certainly knows what the journey is about. She was teaching 7th grade at Washburn Rural Middle School when she was diagnosed. During that time, she underwent two surgeries, a lumpectomy, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 34 radiation treatments.

Becky found that through it all she had the support of her school and her students. When she lost her hair, one student suggested she paint eyes on the back of her head. It sparked an idea that Becky took to the principal. "I sold lottery tickets to students. I raised $200 for the American Cancer Society, and the winner drew on my head." Becky laughs, recalling the winner's drawing of "the best Charlie Brown" she's ever seen.

Money raised by the American Cancer Society helps provide little things that make a big difference to cancer patients in the Reach to Recovery program, like a glossary of confusing breast cancer terms, and a pillow to provide comfort.

"It does seem like a small thing," Jan said. "A pillow kind of represents a warm fuzzy. It not only made me comfortable, it was a nice thing to have. I still have it and I still use it!"

Both women are excited to participate in this year's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. It will be a first for them both.

"It is amazing the people you meet who've had breast cancer, who are survivors, who are just so upbeat. You have an immediate kinship with them," Jan said.

Becky finds inspiration in contact with others who have been in her shoes. "When I meet someone who's been a survivor [...] that gives me hope for the future. It makes me feel like I can do this."

Sign up online to participate in the 2012 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Topeka.

13's Amanda Lanum will act as emcee at the event again this year. To join her team in the walk, or to make a donation, visit the website or send your donation to 631 SW Commerce Place, Topeka, KS 66615.

The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk will be held Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, at Noon on the south lawn of the State Capitol.

Becky Duncan's 7th grade class at Washburn Rural showed its support for her fight against breast cancer by wearing scarves and bandannas to school.
Becky Duncan, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005
Students bought lottery tickets for the chance to draw on Mrs. Duncan's head.