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Team co-captain Jacki Radano of Mount Laurel, was diagnosed with breast cancer at 49.
“I just had my 11-year anniversary cancer-free. Now I just have to go for yearly mammograms.”
Radano says members of the dragon boat team show lots of compassion when one of them is worried or unsettled.
“Some of them have continued to paddle while they’re undergoing treatment,” she adds.
The River Sisters include 13-year survivor Peggy DiMarino of Haddon Heights, and her sister, Patti Richardson of Haddon Township, who has been cancer-free for five years. Their mother also is a breast cancer survivor.
Physically, paddling isn’t easy, but it reinforces the emotional bond team members have with each other.
“It’s an emotional release,” according to Richardson. “It makes me feel healthy.”
At Virtua Hospital in Mount Holly, Kari Kish, a breast cancer survivor, recruits participants for this Sunday’s annual Central and South Jersey Race for the Cure at Great Adventure.
Kish was only 17 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“She was only 45. She tried to put up a good fight,” Kish remembered, but died two months after being told she was in remission.
Kish herself was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer at 30. She’s had a double mastectomy, followed by a series of infections and other complications. Now a medical assistant at Virtua, she talks about her medical history with women in treatment.
“I had a really horrible time for two years,” Kish said. “There were times I wanted to give up, but look now, I have my family. I’m working. I still have a dream to be a nurse navigator for cancer patients.
“I stay positive and focused.”
Kish attends monthly support meetings for breast cancer survivors at the Mount Holly hospital.
“It’s not always happy,” she acknowledges. “Every time I get sick or tired or my body seems to fail me a bit, I think the cancer is back. I’m one of the youngest in the support group and it really helps to talk to each other.
“I talk to everyone about the importance of early detection. Some women still think this is never going to happen to them.”
“I wouldn’t be here and doing what I’m doing today, doing what I love, if I didn’t go through the cancer,” Kish insists. “I went through hell and back and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
“I was diagnosed with this horrible disease but good came from it.”