Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Breast cancer walk offers alternative way to help

By Becky Scott Special to the Bulletin | Published August 1, 2013

ATLANTA—Janice Givens is a devout Catholic, a wife, a mother of two, and a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed for the first time in October 2004, when her children, Grace and Murphy, were just 1 and 3 years old. After a mastectomy she was told that her breast cancer was gone.

Her second diagnosis came in November of 2011—Givens’ cancer had returned in the same breast as before. Breast cancer reoccurring in the same breast is extremely unlikely—“a one percent chance,” her daughter added.

After finding a lump that second time, Givens was preparing for a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. She opened an email from her sister, Julie, in California, who had come across a handwritten letter from their mother, who passed away nine years earlier from cancer and sent a scan of it to the family.

Givens said, “I opened it up and it was a handwritten letter from Mom that said things like ‘God is in control,’ ‘Trust and surrender,’ ‘Everything’s going to be OK,’ ‘I love you, I’m with you’—things like that. … So I’m bawling, thinking, thank you, Mom, for coming and telling me that when I needed to hear that. And the nurse comes in and is like, ‘It’s going to be OK!’ and I go, ‘I know!’”

After the tests, Givens found that her cancer had returned.

“You’re either going into the fire or you’re walking out—it’s your turn sometimes,” she said. “Going through treatment was actually one of the best times of my life because you know everybody just comes together and helps. … All these friends just came out of the woodwork.”

At the end of her treatment, they threw a party and invited everyone who had helped them during her battle to celebrate life and health. “Everyone just came in and did what needed to be done—so it’s a real time of blessing, in a way. It’s hard to let others take care of you sometimes, but it gives them a chance to do something in a situation that makes everyone feel powerless.”

Today, Givens is cancer-free and as active as ever. She exudes purposefulness in the way that she talks about things that are important to her, not least, the fight against breast cancer.

“I’ve always wanted to do a walk,” she said, “but I didn’t want to give any money to (Susan G.) Komen because they give money to Planned Parenthood, and I am pro-life.”

Givens learned of the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer and called for more information. She said, “I asked to see the list of grants and make sure that there was no money going where I didn’t want it to go.” She also noticed that the walk itself would be on the exact 10-year anniversary of her mother’s death from esophageal cancer—a significant date to her family. She called her six sisters to recruit them for her team, and along with three other close friends, their walk with the Atlanta 2-Day began.

On the Saturday night of the 10th anniversary of the walk, also the 10th anniversary of her mother’s death, Janice, her sisters, and her father gathered in the hotel room together.

“I’m sure that my mom was there with us. I’m sure that she helped us find this organization,” Janice reflected. “Even though my mom died before my first diagnosis, I knew she was a part of my experience with breast cancer. So having Mom be a part of the walk just made sense, made it all kind of fit together.”

The Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer takes place this year on Oct. 5-6. Walkers can raise $1,000 and walk 30 miles over two days or raise as little as $500 and walk just one day. The money raised from the walk goes to support breast cancer screening and diagnostic mammograms, genetic testing, counseling and education, all in the state of Georgia.

Givens, along with her sisters and her friends, will be participating in the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer again this year. Grace, her 10-year-old daughter, wants to participate in the walk, once she is old enough.

Givens observed, laughing, “My kids have 43 cousins, so if we go on to the next generation, we’ll have a whole team there too!”

Becky Scott is the communications manager for the Atlanta 2-Day Walk for Breast Cancer.