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Reach to Recovery program helps breast cancer fighters

As breast cancer survivors themselves, volunteers offer knowledge. understanding and most of all: hope.
As breast cancer survivors themselves, volunteers offer knowledge. understanding and most of all: hope.(KOLN)
Published: Oct. 16, 2020 at 7:44 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - For many breast cancer fighters, finding out about your diagnosis and going through treatments can be overwhelming, and may sometimes make you feel like you’re alone. That’s why the American Cancer Society in Lincoln is offering support through the Reach to Recovery program.

From the moment of diagnosis, through surgery and treatment, Reach to Recovery volunteers are there every step of the way.

As breast cancer survivors themselves, volunteers offer knowledge, understanding and most of all: hope.

When volunteer Katie Ohnoutka was 30 years old, she found a lump in her breast. Soon after, she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Ohnoutka went through chemotherapy, radiation and reconstruction surgery, twice.

Seven days after finishing her treatments, her mom was diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer and passed away six months later.

During this time, Ohnoutka didn’t know about the Reach to Recovery program, but says she wishes she did.

“We all have different journeys, different diagnosis, a different way of living life, and the more men and women that sign up for this program, the more people we can reach and help through this,” said Ohnoutka.

Before the pandemic, Reach to Recovery volunteers and participants from across the country used to meet in person. They still offer a listening ear, but it’s now done all through online chat or phone calls.

Back in 1984, after doing a self exam, Judy Brown was diagnosed with breast cancer. She found it at an early stage, had surgery and didn’t require treatment after that.

She says it was her family and church members offering support that got her through it all. Between that and having her own Reach to Recovery volunteer follow her during her journey, she decided to do the same for others.

This year makes 22 years of Brown serving as a Reach to Recovery volunteer. During her time, she’s helped hundreds of volunteers make it through.

She says what she motivates fighters to do the most is to keep a positive attitude even when it gets extremely difficult.

Because of Brown’s impact as a volunteer, she received the Therese Lasser award in honor of the woman who started the program more than 50 years ago.

“There are so many of us that do Reach to Recovery. There are a lot of other deserving ladies out there. We all love what we do. We love talking to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients,” Brown told 10/11.

Pre-pandemic, Brown was used to visiting patients in the hospital, shortly after diagnosis and during surgeries.

She recently completed training to begin as a volunteer using the online chat program and is very excited to now reach even more fighters.

Ohnoutka says you can also help survivors by joining them on their Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk in Lincoln on Sunday, October 25 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Holmes Lake.

If you are a breast cancer fighter or know someone who’d like to get involved in the Reach to Recovery program, click HERE.

Copyright 2020 KOLN. All rights reserved.

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