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The gift to live :
March 5, 2013 12:38 AM
Most of us can confidently say that we are busy.
There are work obligations, friends and family priorities, not to mention trying to squeeze in time for yourself and the hobbies you enjoy; sometimes it seems difficult to juggle everything.
Imagine all that plus hearing words that all of us hope we never have to: You have cancer.
That was Janice Hartoch Taylor's life in November 2000.
"It's kind of a whirlwind of MRIs and tests trying to figure out what we're dealing with," Ms. Taylor told the News-Press, noting that the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara helped her get through that distressing time. Even though Ms. Taylor initially researched treatment options on the East Coast because she's originally from New York, the medical professionals she spoke with directed her back to the Cancer Center. She credits the nonprofit (that has since merged with Sansum Clinic to form Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic) with helping her beat what she calls an aggressive form of breast cancer.
For this reason, Ms. Taylor hopes the community will support the work the nonprofit does to fight breast cancer by attending the 13th annual Barbara Ireland Walk for Breast Cancer Research. Beginning at 8:30 a.m. March 16 at Chase Palm Park, the walk includes three new course options: a 5K, 10K and 15K. Afterward, there will be a spa zone where massages, manicures, yoga and more will be offered. Vendors including Yoga Soup, Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, Salon U and more also have donated raffle prizes for the event.
With 100 percent of walk proceeds to benefit Cancer Center of Santa Barbara with Sansum Clinic, registration costs $60. If you raise $100 or more in pledges, the registration fee will be waived.
Groups can create team fundraising pages on the website for the event, www.ccsb.org/irelandwalk2013. The Cancer Center uses the funds raised for clinical research and trials, such as those Ms. Taylor participated in when she was diagnosed.
"The proceeds of the walk go to this type of research and it's made the critical difference in my life," she said.
Ms. Taylor, who lives in Santa Barbara and is senior director of development for foundation relations at UCSB, credits Dr. Fred Kass of the Cancer Center with recognizing that she would benefit from participating in a trial.
She noted the cancer she suffered from was particularly fast-moving for a woman her age (40 at the time).
"It was already spreading to lymph nodes ... and I had fear that it could be throughout my body," she added.
"It was a very frightening, extreme situation."
Ms. Taylor explained that Dr. Kass put her on a clinical trial involving Herceptin, a drug that is geared to combat fast-spreading cancers, which, at the time, was still being tested.
"Patients like Janice were able to get Herceptin before (the medicine was) FDA-approved," Dr. Kass told the News-Press about the benefits of clinical trials, noting that "research give patients access to drugs that we know can help them that aren't yet in general use.
"I think that the availability of Herceptin likely made a huge difference for Janice."
Founded by Barbara Ireland in 2000, the walk's proceeds have benefited the Cancer Center since 2005 (initial proceeds benefited the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation). The former nurse and longtime community volunteer founded the walk because several women close to her have suffered from breast cancer and she wanted to do something about it.
And proceeds of the event don't just benefit people in Santa Barbara.
"Because we participate in clinical trials, it means we have new therapies available to patients for whom the standard care isn't working," Lindsay Groark, marketing manager for the Cancer Center who is also on the walk committee, said, referring to helping women like Ms. Taylor. "Clinical trials sometimes become the standard of care, (and they) truly shape the future of cancer treatment, not just in Santa Barbara but worldwide."
Ms. Taylor is extremely grateful that she had the opportunity to be a "guinea pig."
"After the initial roller coaster of totally reprioritizing my life, going from MRI scan to MRI scan ... I would hear the doctor say that the tumors were shrinking down to nothing, it was exciting to feel that miracle at work.
"It was a real ordeal for several years," she added. "I had treatments from 2000 into the year 2002. I was still actively having chemotherapy and radiation, the works (during that time). I still get Herceptin preventively to this day."
Through Ms. Taylor's development job at UCSB, she also raises money to fund cutting-edge biomedical research, sometimes in collaboration with Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital or the Cancer Center; her history fuels her passion for this work.
Ms. Taylor appreciates that the Cancer Center helped her keep balance in her life through their support, yoga and art programs.
"They told me, 'Cancer ... This is your No. 1 priority to tackle,' " she recalled. "I was busy ... however this became my focus. This was my No. 1 battle, but I tried to be normal throughout," she added, noting that she tried to keep up with her passions such as skiing and hiking but it was a struggle.
"It was thanks to this clinical trial and thanks to the Santa Barbara cancer center that cancer didn't define my life," she said. "I've been given the gift to live."
And as for finding time to do the things she loves?
"I enjoy my life and don't have to focus on this as an everyday crisis anymore, thanks to them."
Article Courtesey of Santa Barbara News-Press, a sponsor of the 2013 Barbara Ireland Walk for Breast Cancer Research.