Shelle Mitchell was busy.
She was working full-time at Wal-Mart’s corporate office and enjoying a somewhat hectic life with three young daughters and a devoted husband as she approached her 37th birthday in September 2007.
“I had just finished watching High School Musical with my daughter and something told me to do a self-breast exam. I felt a lump about the size of a grape and was told the chances of it being cancer were slim. It was stage 3, level 4 breast cancer.” Mitchell said Thursday at the kickoff for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides campaign in Rogers.
Mitchell said she was just like the 2,100 women in Arkansas going about their daily lives when they hear they have cancer. That’s the number of new cases that will be diagnosed this year.
She and a room full of survivors and advocates pledge to raise money and awareness for the disease that still claims 110 lives every day.
Mitchell had a lumpectomy in 2007 along with radiation and chemotherapy and then opted for a complete mastectomy last December when pre-cancer cells were found in both breasts.
As a survivor Mitchell helped to raise $7,500 for the Making Strides campaign last year and she’s at it again recruiting lots of help at Thursday’s kickoff.
Patricia Brown, chief operations officer for The City Wire, also spoke to the several dozen attendees who pledged to help this year. A survivor herself since a 2005 breast cancer diagnosis, Brown now faces metastatic cancer in her lungs and hip bone, but that hasn’t stopped her from living with a purpose and trying to raise awareness for this disease.
“I am going to fight until my last breath, and hope you will join me.” Brown said.
She encouraged the crowd to seize the day and seek out opportunities to make a difference saying one person can move the needle forward.
This is the second year Northwest Arkansas has launched a Making Strides Campaign against breast cancer. A 5-K walk is set for Oct. 20 at the Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville. Folks wanting to participate individually or in teams can register and get additional information online.
Everett Chevrolet is the flagship corporate sponsor for this year’s event and general manager Jimmy Young said his company was committed to a task that touches every American family in some form or fashion.
“Our own Susie Everett is a breast cancer survivor herself and our corporate family wants to do our part in raising not only money, but awareness,” Young said.
The American Cancer Society estimates there are 12 million breast cancer survivors alive today. Survivors come in all shapes and sizes like Hanna, a nine--year survivor in Bella Vista; Debbie in Bentonville in the midst of chemo treatments; Judy in Rogers now stage four and a 16-year survivor; and Rose Ann in Fayetteville — cancer free one plus years and counting post diagnosis.
Mitchell and Brown encourage advocates to plug in where they are comfortable and get engaged in the ongoing fight against breast cancer today, not tomorrow.
Last year Mitchell consulted with 80 women who were newly diagnosed in Northwest Arkansas through the Reaching for Recovery program. This local initiative helps cancer victims get the answers and support they need from someone who has already walked in their shoes.