Stand By You: Pink Out 2017

miii3935The High School gym was, once again, a sea of pink on Friday night as the Jenison community showed their support for those fighting the battle of breast cancer.

This year, there were eight honorees: Jill Barnes, Jane Carlson, Carolyn DeJong, Dianne Duch, Michelle Gradisher, Shirley Kerkstra, Joni Otto, and Stephanie Tuttle [not necessarily pictured in this order].

miii3411For Michelle [3rd from right], she was overwhelmed by being an honoree but once she arrived to the “pinked out” gym that night and started getting to know some of the other honorees, those fears were gone. Michelle was diagnosed through a mammogram that she desperately wanted to avoid that particular day but chose to go through with it. The office was calling her to return to the hospital before she even got home that day. On March 31 of last year she underwent a double mastectomy which she describes as a “no brainer” based on the test results and family history of breast cancer. She is incredibly thankful for her amazing support team and encourages women not to avoid those important mammogram appointments!

miii3660Joni Otto [1st on the left] was a Jenison teacher for 22 years and is thankful for the science and availability of genetic testing, which she believes is a gift we all need to take advantage of. Joni discovered she had breast cancer and opted for the lumpectomy. Meanwhile, she had genetic testing done which revealed she was at a high risk for breast cancer, so she chose to go a step further and have a bilateral mastectomy to prevent any further occurrences which seemed likely in light of the test results. It wasn’t an easy decision for Joni but she felt that it was the right thing to do to protect herself and her family. She is hoping that her former students will dig deep into their pockets to donate to the Pink Out cause on her behalf!

miii3685Stephanie and Shirley [3rd and 4th from the left respectively] are daughter and mother honorees and Stephanie also says that genetic testing is an essential and lifesaving aspect to her story as well. Her mom Shirley is a breast cancer survivor [and three time honoree!] and Stephanie didn’t want her family to go through another season of cancer. She believes her mom feels guilty for passing on the gene but she also sees genetic testing as a gift, especially when it revealed the BRCA gene which can lead to breast and ovarian cancers. She also urges readers to consider genetic testing if you have a family history of breast cancer as the preventative measures “are much better than going through treatment.”

[If you’d like to explore genetic testing, you can do so locally at Spectrum Health. Please note – this is not an endorsement, merely a local resource.]

miii3680Three of our honorees discovered their cancer through self exams and took a moment in their introductions to make sure and encourage women in the audience to remember to do this. Everyone stressed the importance of regular mammograms and the Spectrum Health mobile mammography unit was in the parking lot, available for tours!

miii3770Finally, High School Principal, Dr. Brandon Graham, introduced Cindi Sigmon as a special honoree. Cindi has been battling Multiple Myleloma since January 2016. “She has undergone numerous rounds of chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant this summer” and “for the past 21 years, she has shown love to the students, staff, community members and parents that have traversed the halls of Jenison High School.” Cindi was escorted to the floor by her husband and received a standing ovation for her courage, service, and strength.

All of our Pink Out Honorees are extra-special reminders to our community of the value of perseverance and we thank them for being willing to come forward and share their stories. May you and your support teams know how important you are to all of us!

Thank you to all of the Pink Out volunteers, financial supporters, and participants who came out last Friday to make this another great year! It’s a powerful message we send each year to those who are struggling as well as those have suffered a loss. Together, we will Stand By You. We are Jenison!

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Pink Out 2016: Count On Me

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Once again the Jenison community came out in droves to support those in our community surviving and thriving in the face of breast cancer. Eight Jenison women in different stages of their fight were honored in a gym that was filled to capacity with supporters and fellow fighters.

MIII6934The women’s basketball team kicked off the athletic festivities in what seemed like it would be a dramatic come-from-behind victory against Lowell. But, despite a win not being in the cards for the women, it was still a great day to be a Wildcat!

In between the basketball games the crowd was introduced to Sister Sue Tracy who is a five-time cancer survivor and she shared a special word¬†of encouragement meant to remind each one of us to “Celebrate Life”! She had the entire gym cheering out the letters for her message including:

MIII6742Count your blessing, not your worries. Express your feelings honestly. Learn to laugh and laugh to learn. Endure what is necessary. Be open and flexible. Remain in charge, networking with family and doctors. Accept and face your own mortality. Treasure each day and each experience. Exercise your mind body and spirit as you are are able.

Sr. Sue has been fighting three different types of cancer over the last 30 years. She says that cancer has made her glad to be alive and sensitive to others. “We all belong to this club that no one would ever want to be part of but here we are. I have found cancer to be much more life-giving even in the midst of being life-threatening. There have been opportunities to deepen in wisdom and it helps us to focus our priorities, to be empathetic to others, a compassion that comes because we don’t have any certainty about a long, long life. I only have today and what can I be and do in that. An event like this calls us all together in support and the Jenison support of each other is remarkable and very special.”

MIII6510The honorees of this year’s Pink Out are: Sharon Aalderink, Karen Meyers, Paula Bowen, Kristin Millard, Shirley Kerkstra, April Spohn, Jill LaMaire and Brandi Tyler [not pictured in this order]

They were all introduced to the crowd and walked across the bridge with family¬†members by their side. Some of them were very recently diagnosed and facing the journey ahead while other honorees are survivors with cancer in their rear view mirrors and words of encouragement for those around them. Their introductions also gave them the chance to say “thank you” to friends, coworkers and family members for their love, meals, fundraisers and prayers.

MIII7034Other highlights from the entire Pink Out event included: the Jenison JV and Varsity Dance Team performing to “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars, pink ice at the varsity hockey game, a raucous high school assembly at the end of the school day and, of course, a sea of pink everywhere you looked throughout the district. A special “thank you” to the Lowell community as well for sharing in our special day and we tip our hats to your Pink Arrow event during football season!

Eleven year survivor, Shirley Kerkstra, says that if she could tell those with a new diagnosis anything it is, “You make it. It’s an emotional roller coaster but you make it.”

Thank you to all of our volunteers, sponsors, supporters and of course, our honorees, for making this event such a special day for the district. And remember, no matter where you are on the journey you can Count On Me. We Are Jenison!

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