Sunday, September 9, 2007


I'm home from an amazing weekend spent with a large group of very selfless and inspiring people. The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort (some how the name doesn't do it justice) was amazing...enormous, beautiful and immaculate. The ACS covered the bill, and I don't even want to know the price tag of my stay. Tatiana and I had a great time and I am so grateful she decided to go with me. I ended up knowing several people from ACS that attended and met several others over the course of the event.

Tatiana and I managed to keep our cool and did well on our presentation. We were approached by several people who were moved by our story and shared their story with us. Many of the volunteers/staff there had been touched by cancer personally and I'd say probably half were survivors themselves. I was particularly touched by Kristin Hoke's story. She was originally scheduled to be there, however, she was just recently diagnosed with a recurrence of her breast cancer and couldn't attend. Here is a bit of her story....

Kristin Hoke anchors WPBF News at 5 and 11 p.m., part of the tri-anchor female news team. She joined WPBF in the fall of 2000. Her arrival was like a homecoming, due to her strong family ties to Florida.
Bountiful Blessings - By Kristin Hoke
All my life, I was the person who pulled into the grocery store and found a space right up front. I considered myself a fortunate, blessed person. I always worked hard for everything in life, but felt like I had a guardian angel smoothing over life's bumps. Then, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. She was given a ten percent chance of living. But my mom taught me a critical life lesson -- that faith and will power trumps all. My mother told me "I will see your high school graduation". And she did. Her strength was inspiring. Seven people in my family would battle cancer, but I always thought I would beat the odds.

In 2004, I married my husband Eric, getting one step closer to the dream of having children. I had many life goals, but becoming a mother was always the most important to me. Six months into trying to start a family, I was diagnosed with a highly invasive breast cancer. I sat in that doctor's office, not caring if I lived or died. Shaking, in tears... I asked my doctor, what about having kids ? The look on his face told me everything. He could provide little answers. Chemotherapy and radiation affected everyone differently. There were no promises. Was this really happening to me ?
Just two days after my surgery, I dragged myself out of the recovery bed, and drove 50 miles to see a fertility specialist. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I didn't care. I was trying to protect my life dream. I took every step I could to protect my body's ability to create life. Starting chemotherapy was an afterthought. I was on a mission to preserve my future.
A month later I started chemotherapy. Four rounds of what nurses called the "pink death". I went through four rounds of this poison, made from the bark of the "happy" tree. It was hard to believe nature could create this toxin, that could tear apart cancer cells and healthy cells. On day fourteen, I lost my hair. Ironically, it happened when I was taking pictures with TV viewers who attended our WPBF "Health" Expo. As the afternoon progressed, I lost more and more hair, until I realized it was time to go home. Then came the next life lesson. I sat there crying and my husband told me, "don't let that cancer chase you... you go after it !" I got his point. Bad things happen, but it is how we rise to the occasion that determines our path. I asked him to shave my head. I felt empowered, and ready to face whatever cancer threw at me.
Radiation would follow, six weeks worth. I remember laying on the couch, burning up hot. My black lab Buddy would lick my face for minutes on end, doing his best to remove my fever. He watched me as I battled the remnants of this disease. He offered up another life lesson... patience. When you are a type "A" personality, it's a tough one to master. Over six months of treatment, I realized everything in life has a time and a place. This was my time to heal. A month later, I was finally able to get off the couch and walk him around the block. He and I shared the victory.
I had to practice my patience once I was done with my treatment. I bugged my oncologist endlessly to give me the all clear. All I wanted to do was move forward. Finally, almost a year later, I got the green light. Now, I would find out if my life dream was still in reach. For months, I waited and prayed. Then it finally happened. After waiting ten years to be pregnant, I was staring at a plus sign on the test. My heart raced. Was it really my time ?
For months I worried that the chemotherapy would affect my body's ability to hold onto this precious pregnancy. But with each month that passed, I gained confidence that everything would be alright. I will never forget the beautiful benchmarks: gaining that feminine belly, feeling her move inside me the first time, seeing a foot or elbow stick out of my side and giggling.. it was all good. I joked with my oncologist that the morning sickness was worse than chemotherapy, and the first trimester fatigue was worse than radiation! But I signed up for it all. This was beautiful life growing inside me.
Cancer and pregnancy have reminded me that all things good and bad have a place in your life. Learn from them, and thank God everyday for your blessings. I can't wait to teach my daughter that optimism and faith are not accidents. They are a choice, and they frame how rich your life will be. Motherhood is a dream come true.

And now this....

WPBF TV 25 anchor Kristin Hoke, who two years ago openly shared her courageous battle against breast cancer, says the disease is back and she's again undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
Doctors discovered the breast cancer last week, she said, while she was being checked out for a cough she'd recently developed.
During a phone interview Friday, she talked about how she's feeling.
“I’m doing better today than I have in the last week,” said Hoke, 39.
“I went through chemo yesterday — my first one— and it went pretty well; I was real happy with it," she said. “A lot of battling cancer is apprehension, and you know, a lot of nerves. Even though I knew what to expect, it was just different this time."
She said she was feeling good Friday and "not feeling nauseous."
"So far so good,” she added.
Hoke endured surgery and chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer during 2005.
Until last week, she’d been cancer-free.
In April, she gave birth to her first child, Isabella "Bella" Margaret.
She said since her co-workers at the ABC affiliate were told of her condition Monday, she's been inundated with phone calls from fellow staffers and co-anchors Lisa Hayword and Tiffany Kenney.
"Everyone has been calling like every three hours,” she said. “It’s really great to know you work with so many decent human beings.”
Hoke said she had a biopsy performed Monday and has begun chemotherapy.
“I have a reoccurrence,” she explained. “It’s in other areas of my body besides my breast tissue . . . but it's my original breast cancer that is back.”
Rumors that she has lung cancer are not true, she said.
“It’s not lung cancer,” she said.
“I basically have lots of tiny little dots -- they’re not even tumors yet," she said "They’re some specks that the chemo will take care of. And so the doctors are focused on getting rid of these small lesions and making sure they don’t come back.”
Hoke, who had returned recently from maternity leave, said she won't be returning to work until she's further along in her treatments.

Instead of her scheduled appearance she sent a video clip that was recorded last week. I fought the tears as I watched. I saw myself in her story...just a mom enjoying her new baby and cancer was trying to take it all away.

Before the weekend was over I was asked once again so share my story at an up coming Relay for Life event. More public speaking...urgh! Then, right after that the executive director of the local ACS asked me to consider being next years Making Strides Against Breast Cancer chair. My initial response was no.......but, I'm telling you after spending two days around this amazing group of people I'm actually considering it. And if all these invites hadn't already made me feel special the woman who heads up the entire Reach to Recovery program for the state of Florida asks if I would consider doing Reach to Recovery work for the entire state and not just my county. I immediately said yes to that one!

I have always admired people who give their time to a good cause and while I've volunteered for ACS for 4 years I feel like my work has really just begun.

If you have not already made a donation to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer I'm asking you to please consider it as no new mother should have to worry that cancer might take her away from her babies. Please check your area for your local Making Strides event or if you would like to donate to my team please email me at and I will send you the link.

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