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Local woman takes ‘strides’ to honor her sister

Date: 10/4/2013

By Carley Dangona

AGAWAM – For a local family, the inaugural American Cancer Society (ACS) Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event celebrates a personal triumph over cancer.

The Making Strides walk will take place on Oct. 6 at Stanley Park in Westfield. This is the first time the walk has been conducted in Western Massachusetts.

It is the premier event to raise awareness and funds to fight breast cancer and save lives. It is the largest network of breast cancer awareness events in the nation, uniting nearly 300 communities to raise money to help the ACS fight the disease with research; information and services; and access to mammograms for women who need them.

“Ten years ago, I don’t know if my sister would have survived,” Stephanie Douglass said. “Every step forward towards a cure helps save somebody’s life or [at least] improves the quality of someone’s life. Every little bit of research adds to the likelihood of surviving. Family, friends and strangers can come together to make a difference.”

Douglass is part of the Covidien walk team. Her older sister Sara is a survivor of breast cancer, diagnosed with stage three in June 2010 at the age of 44. Douglass said the diagnosis came “very unexpectedly” since her family has no history of breast cancer.

“It was frightening. I thought, ‘What can I do?’ It was mind-blowing,” she said. Douglass added that cancer fundraising was always something she had done; but that the word “research” had an “entirely different meaning” once her sister faced cancer.

“I used to think it was only about finding a cure,” Douglass commented. “I now know firsthand that it really does make a difference. Thank God for all the fundraisers and the people that raise awareness.”

She credited the success of Sara’s case to the research that had been conducted about breast cancer. The doctors were able to identify it as a hormone-based cancer and treat it with multiple tactics. Sara underwent a double mastectomy because a lumpectomy would not have successfully removed the cancer. She still takes medication for treatment and faces side effects such as sore joints and memory loss.

Douglass said, “I’ll never forget the day my sisters’ hair started falling out. Try to go out in public and not look like a cancer patient.”

She said she would also never forget the day Sara came out of surgery. When Douglass faces difficulties in life, she thinks of that day and says to herself, “That was hard.”

Douglass continued, “Her lymph nodes are clear – I never knew words like that could be so meaningful. You always thought at some point, your guard would be down [upon receiving the remission news], but it never is.”

Douglass said of Sara, “She never complains. She’s just amazing; she’s absolutely remarkable. She handled the experience with such class and strength. It definitely brought her and I closer.”

Participants can register for Making Strides the day of the event, starting at 9 a.m. The walk will start at 10 a.m.

“It’s a nice way to celebrate on a Sunday afternoon.” Angel Davis, ACS Communication executive and walk manager, said.

Davis emphasized that the walk is just that, there’s no runners, no competition, and the event is open to people of all ages and abilities. “It’s going to be a fun, relaxing time,” she said.

For more information about Making Strides Against Breast Cancer in Greater Springfield or on how to form a team, contact Davis at 493-2126 or or visit

For 24-hour access to information about cancer, call the ACS at 800-227-2345 or visit