By Emily Williams
As a breast cancer survivor of 33 years, Carol Cauthen sees her life as a blessing and has spent every year since her recovery trying to “pay it forward” and support breast cancer survivors and research.
When Cauthen received her stage three breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 36, she said she was caught completely off guard.
“I remember getting my biopsy and the doctor telling me that he was almost 100 percent positive that everything was fine,” she said. “So, when I went bee-bopping back into the office to get my results, it wasn’t even a thought in my mind. I didn’t even bring anyone with me.”
If she had received a similar diagnosis today, she would have learned whether her cancer was hormone positive, negative or triple negative. Her guess is the last of the three, because of how aggressive her case was.
Cauthen very soon underwent chemotherapy and “by the grace of God,” made it into remission. A worry throughout her treatment was that she may become sterile and unable to have children, but she soon gave birth to her son.
Her case was one of success, but she was not blind to her surroundings, having lost many friends over the years to the disease. So, she took her triumph as a call to help educate and lend support to other breast cancer patients.
“Just like autism, breast cancer is something that goes beyond the patient and affects family and friends,” she said.
One of her first steps was starting a business in Hoover, Touching You. The store is dedicated to supplying everything a breast cancer patient could possibly need for her personal appearance, including breast forms, wigs, lingerie and swimsuits.
The store gave birth to a support group for breast cancer patients and survivors, Bosom Buddies, but it also led Cauthen to an important discovery.
While in Dallas, Texas, to check out a new breast form for the store, Cauthen was invited to a luncheon held by the Susan G. Komen breast cancer organization by its founder, Nancy Brinker.
Her desire to keep “paying forward” led her to help Brinker coordinate a chapter at home.
“Our original board was comprised of only breast cancer survivors and hospital staff,” Cauthen said. “At our first Race for the Cure we had about 100 people involved and the majority of the money we raised was one person who donated $25,000.”
In its beginning, Cauthen described the board as a kind of sorority, hosting yoga classes and lunch and learn sessions.
“It’s a way to minister to people,” she said. “It’s a way to tell woman that even though it isn’t going to be a walk in the park, you can get through it.”For the 25 years since the first Race for the Cure, the foundation has grown exponentially and Cauthen expects about 15,000 people to turn up at Linn Park on Oct. 15 for this year’s event. The race’s goal for fundraising this year is $800,000, 75 percent of which will stay in the state.
Looking back on her treatment, Cauthen said that today’s methods of treatment are an entirely different recipe – citing better drugs to combat the effects of chemotherapy and to even replace the need for chemo.
It’s through research that this is possible, she said, and that research is made possible through private funding from organization’s such as Susan G. Komen.
“I strongly believe that if we can find a cure for breast cancer, then we can find a cure for all cancer,” Cauthen said.
She believes that day is in a not so distant future, as long as the research continues to be funded.
“We’ve come a long way and that’s because there are doctors who are dedicated to finding a cure and there are people who are dedicated to making sure that research can continue. All we have to do is keep it going,” Cauthen said.
Folks who wish to help keep that money flowing and programs supporting patients can register to participate in the Race for the Cure on Oct. 15 or simply provide a donation. Registration for the 5K race is $35 for adults and $25 for kids. The event will begin with a survivor parade at 8 a.m. and will close with an awards ceremony.
For more information, visit komenncalabama.org.