Taking Cancer in Strides

By Lisa Cummins

Lisa Cummins addresses the participants at the 2011 American Cancer Society Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk.

Cancer runs in my family. My uncle was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1996 and shortly thereafter, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although a person usually has one type of cancer which metastasizes to other areas, my mom produced different types – lung, small cell lymph node – over the next three years until she passed in early 1999.

Six months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

After my treatments ended in 2001 I became involved in the American Cancer Society (ACS). When I was first diagnosed I was really afraid that I was going to die like my mother. I found out about the ACS’s Reach to Recovery Program and they put me in touch with a woman who had a similar situation – and she was a 15-year survivor at the time. So I wanted to give back. I started at a Relay for Life (on my diagnosis date of June 30), then became a captain and now am participating in the ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Over the past 11 years I have continued with these events because I feel that we go through difficult things to grow and help others. And through the ACS I am helping others, and now even cancer patients at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Cancer has and continues to play a big role in my life. Through my time as a caregiver for my mom, and the countless hours I spent in the hospital for my cancer treatments, I became increasingly grateful and appreciative of the work the nurses did. Recently I received my registered nursing (RN) degree and started work at U-M’s Acute Leukemia Unit.

I feel blessed to be alive and feel it’s my life’s purpose to help others who struggle with a cancer diagnosis. I know many who have not beat cancer — this is the least that I can do.

Lisa has been a long-standing team captain for the annual American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk and was the spokesperson for the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center teams in 2011. This year’s event will take place on Saturday, October 27, 2012 on the campus of Washtenaw Community College. Teams are currently forming and you can find out how to participate on the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center Community Champion Team by contacting Martha Laatsch.