Like many diagnosed with cancer, 50-year-old south suburban resident Lela Vance-Glover’s journey through the disease began with a routine physical exam, “which I delayed so many times,” she said. At 48 years old, she felt she was in great health, but ignored a few minor signs that would prove otherwise.
Almost two years ago, Vance-Glover’s new general practitioner found a lump that was later diagnosed as cancer.
“When I received the positive diagnosis of breast cancer from a surgeon an hour or so after the biopsy, I knew at that moment that I had to face this fear with dignity and courage. I just knew right away that I needed to confront this pending chaos head-on and follow the given treatment plan to the very letter,” said Vance-Glover.
After losing her eldest brother earlier in the year to a “nasty form of cancer,” losing her 17-year-old son years before and with the sting still fresh from the loss of her parents, “I could barely concentrate on all of this,” she said, “I didn’t want to give my family any additional devastating news, but I am the youngest of them all and I knew I could never make it through this scary trial alone.”
Vance-Glover and her husband immediately asked their pastor, family and church family at the Chicago-based Rock of Ages Baptist Church to pray for them as they went through treatments and became determined to beat cancer. They met with a team of doctors who educated them on the disease, however “the medical team reminded us repeatedly that it was an aggressive form (that’s scary). During these months, I sought ways to reduce my stress and found that my faith would certainly carry me through the road ahead,” she said.
Motivated by friends and family who would send lovely gifts and notes of encouragement, Vance-Glover channeled her stress into a hobby. “Finally, I told one of them how much I loved what she was sending me and that I think I’d like to learn to craft and create one day,” she said. So within a couple of days, Vance-Glover’s friend gave her a pink scrapbook album with an inscription “Scrap the Journey,” where she would indeed "scrap" her journey.
“Learning to be creative really distracted me from the ongoing treatments of cancer for even just a few hours per day,” Vance-Glover said. Family members bought her a huge assortment of craft tools. “With this, I was given the gift of crafting, creating cards and altered art — which has certainly become my most passionate hobby — as I scrap through this journey!”
During the Vance-Glover and the other six survivors were honored by Indianapolis-based Medals4Mettle with a medal for their courage in beating the disease.
For the first time in the state of Illinois, Medals4Mettle donated earned marathon medals to the seven cancer survivors celebrated this year in town. Created in 2003 by Dr. Steven Isenberg, the non-profit organization facilitates the gifting of marathon, half marathon and triathlon finishers’ medals. Runners from around the world donate their hard-earned medals to children and adults fighting debilitating illnesses who might not be able to run a race, but are in a race of their own just to continue to live their life. At 58 years old, Isenberg gave his 2003 Chicago Marathon medal to a friend who had prostate cancer.
“We are fortunate to get to pick our battles. We come across the finish line and someone gives us a metal to celebrate our challenges, and yet it’s insignificant to someone who hears those words, ‘you have cancer, or any other debilitating disease,’” said long distance-runner Eileen Quirk who represented Medals4Mettle at the event. “Our struggle is insignificant compared to the struggle that goes with cancer and other illnesses,” said Quirk.
After proudly accepting her medal following beating a 10-month battle with cancer, Vance-Glover said, “Never again, will I place my health on the back burner. It is my goal to be informed enough to encourage others to have regular mammograms know your body and seek medical attention whenever something just doesn’t feel right.”
Her experience, she says, has encouraged her to open up about her personal battle. “I will not be shy about my journey and will offer my newly learned knowledge to assist and support others through uncertain times such as this,” said Vance-Glover.
For more on this year's Relay for Life Evergreen Park, Mt. Greenwood and Beverly read:
Follow Vance-Glover’s journey and creations at her blog, Creations of My Pink Journey.