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Pardee honors 'women of hope'

Jean Faulkner accepts Women Helping Women honor. Jean Faulkner accepts Women Helping Women honor.

FLAT ROCK — Debra Jesensky, suffering from breast cancer, heard about the cost of the long road of treatment, looked at her family's finances and decided it wasn't worth it. If cancer was a death sentence, she didn't want her death to destroy her family's financial stability too.

"I had actually chosen to die, because I was going to die anyhow, than to put us in that kind of debt," said Jesensky, who has stage 4 breast cancer. She told a medical office worker that she would no longer come for treatment. "And she said no, you're coming in. She asked what the problem was and I told her it was insurance, and she said you're coming even if I have to come get you."
Although she did not learn it until much later, the breast cancer support program Women Helping Women was the vital lifeline that saved Debra Jesensky.
"It's only been a few days that I've actually known it was Women Helping Women that gave that monies for me to be able to make the choice to live," she said in a video interview as some audience members wiped away tears. She will always be thankful for Pardee Hospital's Women Helping Women program, she said, "because they're the people that gave me a chance to go from dying to living."
Jesensky was among the patients, nurses, physicians and caretakers honored Thursday night as the Pardee Hospital Foundation kicked off a two-day celebration of "Women Helping Women." The program is the foundation's biggest fundraiser, having raised more than $1.6 million over 14 years to help nearly 1,000 uninsured or underinsured women get mammograms and breast cancer treatment.The 2012 event raised more than $130,000, exceeding its goal.

The theme this year is "Celebrating the Healing Power of Humor and the Men Who Help Women Heal."
A gathering of 150 people heard stories of women overcoming great odds and the doctors who treated them during the event at Kenmure Country Club.
The evening also saw recognition of the 2012 Women of Hope, an honor for women who have survived cancer or other medical crises and come back stronger for it.
A 27-year colon cancer survivor, Dana Carpenter was on a trip to Disney World with family when she began feeling exhausted and winded.
When she got home to Hendersonville, her doctor, Robert Murphy, ordered her to the Pardee emergency room.
"She needed a four-way bypass and a heart valve," said Amy Dillon, co-chair of the Women Helping Women event. "During her recovery, her chest incision burst and her sternum cracked due to advanced osteoporosis. She was rushed back to the hospital for more surgery. Her doctors gave her a 2 percent chance of surviving.
"Thankfully, she survived and is fully recovered and serves as a deacon and leads the newcomers class at First Presbyterian Church. She is the resident activities chairperson at Lake Pointe Landing and also serves on the Residents Council there. She takes yoga classes and enjoys a very full social calendar. She loves to be a blessing to others."
Born at Pardee hospital, Jean Faulkner followed her mother into OB nursing and worked as an OB nurse for 32 years.
"Three years ago she discovered a lump in her breast after experiencing pain playing tennis," Dillon said. "She didn't have any of the risk factors for cancer. She was not overweight, she did not smoke, she lived a healthy lifestyle and did not have a family history. She was diagnosed with breast cancer on her grandson's two-month birthday. She was worried that she might not watch him grow up."
Under the care of Dr. Thomas Eisenhauer, Dr. Bill Medina and Dr. William Overstreet, she recovered.
"She was used to being on the other side but she put her trust in her Pardee doctors. She is thankful for the support she received from her family, friends and her church family at First United Methodist Church. Her advice to others facing cancer is to let other people help you, don't try to do it yourself, stay positive and look on the bright side."
Doctors who diagnose and treat cancer patients, Drs. Ken Shelton and Alan Huffman, plus husbands who have seen their wives through breast cancer treatment were recognized as "men who help women heal."
"Jean's inner strength through this ordeal has inspired me to be strong for her," Gary Faulkner said. "Simply being with her during her multiple surgeries and procedures and doctors visits brought us closer as a couple."
Dr. Huffman said while he was old enough to have been raised during a time when "take it like a man" implied strength against adversity "my female patients have repeatedly shown me the fallacy of this aphorism.
"I have been impressed with the ability of many women to deal with their cancers and at the same time work a job, take care of children and spouses and continue with the issues of life. I only hope that if I am faced one day with cancer that I will be able to 'take it like a woman.'"
Keynote speaker Susan Sparks, a Brevard native who is a breast cancer survivor and a lawyer turned standup comic turned Baptist minister, told the audience that faith, humor, listening and sharing the experience are all keys to surviving a cancer scare.
"Really what I'm talking about is we don't just get through it," she said. "We get through it with grace and dignity and hope and maybe a little joy."
Sparks will also be the keynote speaker during Friday's luncheon when her topic will be the healing power of humor.