Irony is cruel at Colorado border
Editor’s note: Vail resident Polly Letofsky has been on the road since she left town Aug. 1, 1999, on her mission to become the first woman to walk around the world and promote awareness of breast cancer. From Vail she first walked to the West Coast, then crossed to the two islands of New Zealand, up the eastern coast of Australia and on to Malaysia and Southeast Asia, India, Turkey, Greece, Great Britain and Ireland. She’s now back in the United States, having arrived in New York City and crossed New York State to the Canadian Border at Niagara Falls and made her way to her home state of Minnesota. She has now crossed into Colorado and she is expected to reach Vail at the end of the months. You can follow along with Polly’s journey on her Web site, http://www.globalwalk.org.HOLLY, CO – Call me crazy – I swear the skies have been turned a deeper, darker blue with every step closer to the Colorado border. Those rich blue Colorado skies are unmatched anywhere, a blue so shocking that you have to stop and stare and wonder if Crayola could ever create a color so brilliant.One mile from the Colorado border I stopped to set up my self-timer around Bob’s handle bars and called my friend Vicki. “Smile!” I yelled into the phone, “you’re with me at the one-mile mark!” Click-click. “I’ll call you in 20-minutes when I hit the border.”Vicki had always planned to drive out to these southeastern plains – a six-hour drive from Denver – and greet me at the border. But how’s this for a cruel irony, she was diagnosed with breast cancer – again. Her first round was 12 years ago.Just two days before I was reaching the Colorado border she was starting her daily dose of radiation treatment for this second bout.Reaching the moon
My friend Vicki is a woman who has done so much for women and breast cancer all over the country that you feel honored to, at the very least, call her from a one-mile marker in Kansas and take a photo of yourself on the phone with her.Back in 1992 she was diagnosed with stage III invasive breast cancer. She had noticed a lump for an entire year-and-a-half but repeated mammograms never picked up anything suspicious. When the lump grew to the size of a golf ball doctors finally performed a biopsy and her life flew into a tailspin.She went on to survive six months of chemo, a week of high dosage chemo, a bone marrow transplant, 28 treatments of radiation and five-years on tamoxifen. Two years ago she came out to meet me in Turkey as a treat to herself for being cancer free for 10 years.For 12 years now you couldn’t possibly be involved with breast cancer on a national level, and certainly not in Colorado, without knowing the name Vicki Tosher. She volunteers in advocacy programs, lobbies lawmakers in Washington, and if you lined up her recognition awards side by side, they would reach to the moon.In the year 2000 Vicki co-founded Sense of Security, or SOS, a Colorado nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive and sustained non-medical financial assistance for women in breast cancer treatment. Vicki’s vision was that no breast cancer patient should have to suffer through financial hardship while in the midst of treatment. Years ago she told me, “No one should lose their home because they can’t pay their bills while they’re going through treatment. You should always have a home to go to as your sanctuary.”It says on the Sense of Security Web site: “Often moderate to low-income people diagnosed with breast cancer become incapacitated and unable to work and earn an income. Without an income, one cannot pay their monthly bills. Financial stressors contribute to health stressors, affecting a patient’s ability to seek treatment, heal and recover.” Amen.Vicki and her friend Angela set up Sense of Security and now women and families around Colorado dealing with breast cancer don’t have to worry about choosing between food and prescription drugs or medical bills. Fifty-six percent of the organization’s grants help women pay their rent or mortgages while they’re going through treatment. They also help with medical insurance premiums, transportation costs, childca@VD byline paper:re and utilities.
Collective sighWhen Sense of Security was three years old, and 11 years after her first diagnosis, Vicki was diagnosed with breast cancer again. Because of her health history it was very likely no private insurance company would take her on and her current insurance was about expire. She was teetering on the edge of being in the exact situation that she had worked so hard to help others survive.Then, in a stroke of divine intervention, while she was in the hospital for her second mastectomy and reconstruction, a friend brought word of a professional research assistant job with part-time hours and full medical benefits. The job will be upgraded to full-time shortly after her treatment ends. And – knock on wood – her cancer was found early and treatment has gone well. A collective sigh was heard around the country.But good fortune isn’t always at hand, so while I walk through Colorado all funds raised will benefit Sense of Security. Please log on to the Sense of Security Web site for information on their application criteria and how to make a donation – either teensy-weensy or ENORMOUS – in name of the GlobalWalk.’We’re together’
Twenty minutes after I called Vicki, I saw the “Welcome to Colorado” sign. The skies were that delicious Colorado Sky Blue that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world, but it was all a little bittersweet. I missed that my best Colorado buddy couldn’t be here because of this stupid disease. I set up my self-timer and called Vicki again. All she heard was static out on these empty eastern Colorado plains, but I yelled into the phone anyway. “Smile!” Click-click “We’re together at the Colorado border!”Sense of SecurityWeb site: http://www.senseofsecurity.orgPhone: 303-669-3113E-mail: email@example.com