WOONSOCKET â€“ Losing a family member to illness can leave a person feeling helpless, which hinders the process of coming to terms with that life-changing loss.
But there are ways to take proactive steps toward moving on, which also bring a sense of fighting back.
Noneajean McFarlane found that to be true this fall as she worked to organize a team in Sundayâ€™s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Roger Williams Park in Providence.
McFarlane, a Times graphic designer, decided to put together a team for the American Cancer Society fundraiser in light of her own losses last spring.
Her father, Andrew McFarlane, died of heart disease in April and then his longtime girlfriend, Ida DiSano, lost a lengthy battle to cancer in May. It was her third bout with the deadly disease, which had started as breast cancer for her years ago.
Because DiSano faced cancer so many times made McFarlane feel like she had to take action against the disease in some way.
â€śI wanted to do something to remember (DiSano) and help so that somebody else wouldnâ€™t have to go through this,â€ť McFarlane said.
She remembers how there wasnâ€™t much discussion about cancer years ago â€” the days when patients facing the illness and their families were not so willing to talk about the challenges they faced.
â€śNowadays, it is your mom who had it, or your sister,â€ť she said. â€śIt affects just about everyoneâ€™s family in some way.â€ť
The successes in fighting cancer have also coined new terms in that effort and people are now described as cancer survivors, cancer-free, or a person living with cancer. There is also greater public awareness to the need to develop new cures and even more effective treatments.
The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk pits individual teams in a fundraising battle to bring in the most donations for the cause and concludes with a 3-mile walk around Roger Williams Park that participants complete at their own pace, according to McFarlane. And while the main focus is to raise money to continue breast cancer research and provide access to information and testing services, the fundraiser also raises awareness.
â€śIt brings people together and gets people focused on trying to find a cure,â€ť McFarlane said.
Her team is an example of how that goal can be met. As she recruited team members for Sundayâ€™s event, she drew support from her family, friends and co-workers. Among the many donors on her team are at least 15 walkers taking part in Sundayâ€™s Making Strides event.
McFarlaneâ€™s group has sold cupcakes while working toward its goal of raising $1,000 for the walk and has also drawn on the support of other friends and family members to pull in donations to the cause. McFarlane created a webpage on the Making Strides website and received donations from supporters online. Times publisher Mary Lynn Bosiak also gave the team a boost by contributing to the drive 20 percent of the proceeds of the paperâ€™s Breast Cancer Awareness page on Oct. 16.
By Wednesday, McFarlane was feeling confident that her team would reach its fundraising goal and was already thinking about next year.
â€śThis just makes you feel you are doing something to help,â€ť she said. â€śMaybe you can help keep someone else from going through this, or just support someone who is. It helps when they see all these people out there supporting them who donâ€™t have the illness themselves.â€ť
For more information on the fundraiser walk, visit americancancersociety.org. If youâ€™d like to donate to NoneaJean McFarlaneâ€™s team, visit http://main.acsevents.org/goto/bosombuddies1