Nineteen breast cancer survivors from the Rochester, NY area write about their journey through breast cancer in a positive way, focusing on the growth and positive gifts that came from their experiences. They all learned about themselves, their strength, and how much they were loved by those around them. Not all the stories have happy endings, but all were lived with grace and courage. Their stories will inspire all those who have been diagnosed with this disease or are supporting those who have.
“Moments of Truth, Gifts of Love hits home for me. As a breast cancer survivor, I know how authentic these stories are. It was the willingness of amazing, courageous women like these honestly sharing their experiences that helped me with my battle.” Robin Roberts, Co-Anchor of Good Morning America
Eve Strella-Ribson was born in Pittsburgh, PA and raised North of the city. She graduated from Kittanning Senior High, Kittanning, PA in 1969 and from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 1986 with a BS in Industrial Engineering. Eve presently lives in Pittsford, NY. She is CEO of Strella & Associates – a consulting, coaching, training, keynoting, team energizing, industrial engineering firm located in Pittsford, NY. She lectured on many cruise lines as part of the on board entertainment. As an author, she contributed to five books and numerous magazine articles – for Stephen Covey, Rochester Woman Magazine, and others. She also did pottery, sculpture, painting, photography and stained glass design. Eve’s other passions were astronomy and equestrian sport. She trained and rode her horse, Mr. B, to national champion status with the American Horse Show Asssciation. She was also ranked third in the nation as adult amateur in dressage. Together with her husband, Edward J. Ribson, she loved to explore the cosmos from their backyard observatory, Stardust. Eve died July 19, 2011, four months after the book was released.
I was born and raised in rural Allegany County, New York, in the very small farming community of Cuba. With dreams of being a physical education teacher and coach, I graduated from SUNY Brockport. I went on to receive my Masters in Education from St Bonaventure University. Marriage took me to Burnsville, Minnesota. I raised 3 terrific kids and moved back to New York in the late nineties. I have taught school, worked for a plush toy company, been in the health insurance industry, retired, and currently work in a medical office in Canandaigua, New York. I live in the heart of the Finger Lakes with my husband Roger and our beagle, Charlie. I have three children, two stepchildren, and five grandchildren.
Born and raised in north central New Jersey, Judith Ann Baronsky is a nurse, a part-time dance instructor, a wife, a mother, and a survivor. She lives a blessed life in upstate New York with her husband Henry and three children: Alexander, Ryan, and Lara.
In my life I have been an artist, a craftswoman, a retail worker, a doctor’s office receptionist, and a self-employed seamstress. When my first daughter was born, I became a stay-at-home Mom. I earned the money to feed our growing family by doing family day care as my husband worked long hours building his own business, a retail store. Eventually the store grew to a level that could comfortably support our family, and I continued to care for our five children, home schooling most of them during the early years of their education. I learned to take a proactive stance in dealing with educational issues and various health crises that arose during this time. When I discovered I had breast cancer, this background served me well in dealing with my diagnosis and treatment. Since then, I have turned to writing and journaling to help me process all that has happened, an endeavor I had neglected since my college days. I have become involved with my local breast cancer group, and am now a staff member of that organization. My breast cancer experience was truly an awakening. I wish I could have come upon this in an easier way, but I gratefully accept all the good that life has to offer
The first baby to be born in the MASH hospital at US Army Camp Blanding, Gainesville, Florida, Pat Bernard was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Munhall High School, Munhall, Pennsylvania (1961), from Allegheny College with a BA in Political Science (1965), and from the University of Buffalo with an MLS (1976). Pat is employed as the Director of the Henrietta Public Library, Rochester, New York. She currently lives in Mendon, New York, with her husband, a professor at the University of Rochester Medical School. She is a board member and officer of the Genesee Valley Handspinning Guild, a board member of Naiades Women’s Oncology Rowing Program, and a member of the Genesee Rowing Club. Her hobbies include skiing, scuba diving, bicycling, kayaking, and knitting. She is the proud mother of a daughter and a son, and “Grammy” to three wonderful boys and one darling girl.
Theresa Bronte is a native of the Rochester area and has lived in Pittsford since 1966. She was married to Dr. Dominic Bronte, a well-known dentist in Rochester, for 48 years. She attended Nazareth College, where she received her B.A. and M.S. in Education. She taught remedial reading and math in the Gates Chili school system for eighteen years. Ms. Bronte has been retired since 1990 and spends her time with family, volunteers for the St. Louis Parrish, and travels to Europe every year.
I am a single mother of two daughters, Lauren and Hannah, a labor and delivery nurse, a marathon runner, and a six-year breast cancer survivor. I am the founder of a non-profit organization (S.I.S.), created to financially assist those battling breast cancer. I have lived as many years growing up in Southern California as I have as an adult in New York, and have come to prefer snowstorms to earthquakes.
I consider myself to be a reasonable, deliberate, and useful person. I was raised in a healthy, happy family as the youngest of four siblings. Mom is active and healthy at 93. I am currently 59 years old and find wisdom for living from art, music, and the thoughts of others. I am an artist at heart and love to draw and paint anything, but especially elderly people. I was an art education major in college, but spent my whole career working in activities for long-term care. I retired in 2005 and work six different little jobs dealing with old people and old things. My husband and I have raised our two children in the same house in which his mother was raised. Larry is a substance abuse counselor, daughter Corey is an artist, and son Rob is a musician. My post treatment goal is to finish planting the garden I started two years ago.
A registered professional engineer, Alison lives in Rochester, New York, with her husband John and daughters Andrea and Maria. Since cancer year 2006, she’s completed seven marathons and seven triathlons. She has continued horn playing, woodcarving, and her other interests. She keeps cancer worries at bay but faces the music at each check-up and Breast Cancer Coalition event. Her biggest post-cancer challenge was summiting Tanzania’s 19.340 ft Mount Kilimanjaro in March 2008. She continues loving life and her family.
Myra Morgan was born and raised in California and is a graduate of Harbor High School in Santa Cruz. She obtained a BS in Biology from Santa Clara University and received her MD from University of California at Davis. Medical training and her husband brought her to Ann Arbor, Michigan and Denver, Colorado before she settled in Upstate NY. Currently retired as a physician, she spends her time raising three terrific children and pursuing her hobbies which include skiing, rowing, pottery, and volunteer work. In the future she hopes to run faster, teach, and someday resume her medical career.
Linda Morreale graduated from the Fingers Lakes School of Massage, Ithaca, New York, in 1999. Currently Linda is a practicing massage therapist and owner of Healing Energy in Penfield, New York. She spent several years working as a chiropractic assistant and did catering while going through school. She has worked as a carpenter’s assistant to build her strength and endurance. She has also worked as a photographer and manager at a photo studio.
I was born and raised in Wappingers Falls, New York. I graduated from the State University of New York College at Fredonia with a Bachelor of Science in Music Therapy. I interned at the Center for Discovery in Harris, New York, for six months. I really was able to experience music therapy at its best by working with adults and children who have disabilities or who are autistic. I am married to my best friend and soul mate, Andy. We have two compassionate, caring, and beautiful children: Zachary who is eleven, and Sarah who is nine. We all love spending time together biking, singing, playing games, and spending our summer vacations at Assateague Island, Maryland. We currently live in West Henrietta, New York, where we try to dodge the winters and love and enjoy the summers!
Wendy White-Ryan, M.D. received her BA from Mount Holyoke College and her MD from New York Medical College. She completed residency training in pediatrics at the University of Rochester Strong Memorial Hospital. She died from her cancer in December, 2010 and is survived by her husband, two children, and multiple pets.
I am a 43-year-old breast cancer survivor, but I am so much more. My family and I reside in Rochester, New York. I have a Bachelor of Science in Education and taught third grade for eight years. Soon after my first child was born, I decided to stay home and care for her. My son was born a few years later, and I continued to stay home. I loved volunteering at their school and going on all the field trips. This past year, I began working part-time at my husband’s company. It is interesting work with interesting people. I also enjoy gardening, reading, baking, and exercising.
My husband and I will be celebrating our nineteenth wedding anniversary this year. He is successful, handsome, generous, protective, and my soul mate. He enjoys golf, cars, hockey, and red wine. My children are busy with school, dance, soccer, hockey, and socializing with many friends. They are intelligent, beautiful, athletic, compassionate, and the light of my life. My family has been my ultimate support system. We enjoy vacationing together and participating in cancer fundraisers. We are hoping for a cure soon. In the meantime, they are happy and healthy, and so am I.
Born in Brooklyn, I grew up on Long Island and moved to Canandaigua in 1981. I have been a Registered Dental Hygienist for 40 years, and a Mary Kay Consultant for 30 years. I have two children, both Physicians Assistants. One lives in Boston and the other on Long Island. I currently live with my dance partner, Carroll, in Canandaigua.
After a valiant struggle, Janet Stager finally lost her battle with metastatic breast cancer on Monday, June 14, 2010.
When I received my breast cancer diagnosis, I was fifty years old. I had an amazing husband, an accomplished and loving daughter who was just beginning her family with her partner, and a very fulfilling career as an electrical engineer. Hiking, camping, and canoeing were some of our favorite ways to enjoy life and God’s marvelous and vast world. We had done some adventure traveling in such places as Alaska, Greenland, Ireland, and England, as well as enjoying our own hills, valleys, lakes, and streams. Certainly there were the normal challenges; but I was truly blessed to be enjoying a happy, faith-filled, and active life.
Jane Vallely is currently living in upstate New York with her husband, who has recently retired from a major corporation. After retiring from work as a dental assistant, she is enjoying her new career as a professional wedding planner. When she is not busy helping couples plan the wedding of their dreams, she enjoys time spent with her children, grandchildren, and other family members.
I was born and raised on a farm in West Henrietta, New York, one of three children. I married in 1982 and divorced in 2002. I had thyroid cancer in May 1996. I live in Brighton, New York, with my two children, now 22 and 21. A lifelong goal was to complete my Bachelors degree. I returned to school in 2005, and on May 8, 2009, I graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Management. I graduated nine days after hearing the disappointing news that I had breast cancer and thirty days before surgery. I did not know that the journey ahead would bring suffering and unimaginable blessings and new purpose in life.
I have been married to my best friend Harry for 34 years. We have two sons and two daughters, seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. I am forever grateful to still have my mom, whose love, strength, and wisdom are with me every day. I am a real estate broker and love to dabble in oil painting, reading, and gardening.
Edward Ribson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and is currently employed as a public health official in the Division of Environmental Health at a county health department. His avocations are astronomy and astrophysics. His other interests range from art and art history to Greek Bronze Age prehistory, Greek mythology, classical literature, and the early history of Christianity. Mr. Ribson holds memberships in the Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Science and in the International Dark-Sky Association.
Kareen Johnston-Tucker has worn many hats on her life’s journey including Information Technology (programmer/systems analyst, computer operator, data entry), substitute teacher (all subjects, all grades), teacher’s aide working with autistic pre-school children, and fingerprint technician with FBI. She served in the United States Marine Corps (Vietnam era), did extensive fundraising, and most recently is working in customer service with Vonage America. She has also lived in many places including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, Virginia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Oahu, Hawaii, Ottawa, Ontario Canada, and Newfoundland, Canada. She is a graduate of Monmouth University, and holds a Black Belt in TaeKwonDo, which she earned at the age of 50. When asked what her greatest achievement has been without hesitation she will respond, “that would be my work in progress: my son Spud, who is 19.” Her downtime is spent enjoying life, one moment, one day at a time.