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Rays of Hope’s message in breast cancer fight

Recorder/Beth Reynolds
Hundreds of walkers head up Main Street for the 3-mile 19th annual Rays of Hope - A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer on Sunday in Greenfield.

Recorder/Beth Reynolds Hundreds of walkers head up Main Street for the 3-mile 19th annual Rays of Hope - A Walk Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer on Sunday in Greenfield. Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — “I know that every person out there who has been diagnosed with breast cancer has had the same initial reaction that I did,” said Pamela Noyes of Greenfield, addressing a crowd gathered before Sunday’s Rays of Hope walk.

“‘Not me, this can’t be happening to me,’ we hear cancer and the next thing we think of is death,” Noyes said.

Diagnosed at 31 and now a seven-year survivor, Noyes described her own experience with breast cancer and the programs supported by the fundraiser.

Baystate Health System’s annual Rays of Hope march, in its fourth year in Greenfield and 19th in Springfield, this year raised $838,000, according to Baystate Health spokeswoman Jane Albert.

The money stays within the area, spread out between Baystate hospitals according to organizers.

Olivia Rowe, 11, of Northfield, has participated for all of the Rays of Hope walk’s four years in Greenfield.

This year, the Northfield Elementary student raised $920 for the event, selling pink rubber bracelets at school, door-to-door and via Facebook with the help of her mother, Michelle Rowe.

“It raises awareness and all the money for this, I know it’s going to be in good hands,” Olivia said.

“She’s wonderful. She puts so much effort into it,” said Olivia’s grandmother, Linda Rowe of South Deerfield. “We love her.”

“Let’s try to get rid of breast cancer and treat all the women who don’t have the means to be treated; it’s a horrible disease and early detection is so important,” said Linda Rowe, herself a breast cancer survivor.

Speaking to the 300 or more walkers gathered in the Miles Street Energy Park before the walk, Baystate Franklin Medical Center oncology manager Naomi Bolognani told the crowd the hospital wouldn’t be able to offer the various programs it does, including support groups and massage during treatment, without the fundraiser.

Noyes credits learning to adjust to the effects of the disease to programs supported by the fundraiser.

“I didn’t want to deal with what I was being told, but I quickly learned that I had to or I would lose my chance at this wonderful game called life,” Noyes said.

Noyes said she decided to fight and was able to cope with the ravages of chemotherapy but could not adjust to the prospect of a mastectomy, until an art class helped her to envision a future with one breast.

That class was funded by Rays of Hope, as were survivors’ conferences she subsequently attended and her support group, according to Noyes.

Participants in the Greenfield walk numbered 600, according to Albert, and 22,000 in the older Springfield event.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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