Breast cancer survivors share their story

Published 6:12 pm Monday, February 25, 2019

LANETT — There was lots of hugging and some tears of joy being shed Sunday afternoon at the Jane Farrar Event Center in downtown Lanett. It was the second annual cancer survivor’s luncheon hosted by Team WHIP, which stands for Working to Help those In Pink.

“Breast cancer survivors aren’t victims. They are victors,” said program emcee Minister Lisa Askew. “They are not weak people. They have been chosen by God to set an example for others. Cancer survivors have gone through a lot. They are unique people who touch the lives of others. Don’t think for a minute that God has not been with them. He has his hand on them, and they are the salt of the earth as they share their stories with others.”

One person sharing her story to the sizable crowd on hand was Juanita Gilder.

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“She has a way with children,” Askew said in introducing her. “She’s been a teacher for a long time at the Bowen East Head Start Center. She is such an encouraging person and has an awesome story to tell us.”

Gilder said she was truly thankful to be standing before the group and talking about her experience with cancer.

“When I told my family I had it,” she said. “They looked at me like I was telling them my obituary. I told them that I didn’t have my ticket yet, and I wasn’t planning on going anywhere.”

Gilder said she knew that she had a serious fight on her hands. She had extended conversations with medical professionals. “I asked them every question I could think of, and they gave me answers.” she said. “It was such a relief just to talk about it. I had learned a long time ago in church that if something bothers you to talk about it.”

She then quoted from memory some lines from the famed 1624 poem “No Man is an Island” by John Donne.

“I am proud to say there people out there helping me, and I want to help others,” she said. “No one can make it alone. We have to be there for each other. The only person who doesn’t get answers is the person who doesn’t ask questions. I am a survivor, and I reach out to anyone who needs someone to talk to.”

Gilder said she was proud to be a cancer survivor at age 76 but cautions everyone that breast cancer can come to anyone of any age group, and although it’s more prevalent among women, it can happen to men too.

“I’ve been a survivor for two years and want to keep helping others,” she said.

“God is going to keep on keeping on with you,” Team WHIP member Sonya Adams said. “You have a story to tell.”

The program concluded with 14 cancer survivors holding hands, forming a circle and swaying back and forth to the recorded music of the Rev. Tony Avery who sang, “You’re a winner, just keep moving on. Don’t give up, don’t look back, His word is truth and don’t look back.”

“These women are champions today,” Askew said. “They have been in a fight and survived. We just say thank you.”