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Local Cancer Survivor Now Helping Other Patients Fight Back

The surgery was over. As Cathy Halloran started waking up, she immediately sensed bad news.

Her sister Cheryl sat at the edge of the hospital bed and looked like she had been crying. Cathy’s husband Greg – not prone to public displays of affection – stood at the top of the bed stroking her arm and telling her how much he loved her. Cathy looked at Cheryl, who simply nodded.

“I thought I had either died and was already in heaven and my husband was professing his love in front of an audience or I had cancer,” Halloran says.

She had breast cancer.

That was August 6, 2001. Halloran recalls making this vow: God, if you give me a second chance, I will not waste it; I will give you the glory and help others.

That’s exactly what Halloran has been doing for more than 14 years.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For Halloran, that’s a year-round thing. “You can’t just wait for a certain time of the year to take care of your health,” she says.

Halloran underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy, finishing January 30, 2002. She’s had two mastectomies, lost her hair and endured all the emotions that go with a cancer diagnosis.

After 12 years as a preschool teacher, she became a full-time employee at St. Elizabeth, where she was treated as a patient. Now she gives back as a women’s product specialist in the Breast Center in Edgewood.

She counsels patients and their family members.

“What I can do is help people at a time when they don’t know where to turn,” she says. “They’re coming in because a situation in their life has brought them here. They walk in hopeless, and I give them two things from my heart: I give them a hug and I give them hope.”

She does it all with compassion, passion and humor.

Halloran, 46, has raised roughly $450,000 combined for the American Cancer Society and the Chicks and Chucks Foundation, a non-profit she started in 2006 to provide a resource for breast cancer patients in need of financial and emotional support.

She talks in the community as many as 25 times a year, speaking to schools, church groups and businesses. She encourages people to make appointments to have regular exams. Her message includes these tips:

  1. Get acclimated with your body. Conduct regular self-exams to set a baseline.

  2. Know your risk factors; find out your family history.

  3. Develop a dialogue with the women in your life who are most important to you. Ask them if they’ve had a mammogram lately and whether they do they do self-exams.

“I’m somebody who has walked the walk,” Halloran says. “I want to be the best I can be to help them to the level that I was helped. St. Elizabeth is the most caring, compassionate place you could ever ask to be going through a challenging time. I feel very blessed. I just want to make people feel better.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The St. Elizabeth Mobile Mammography Van will be out in the community at least 12 times this month. You can find out where and when at http://www.stelizabeth.com/Calendar.aspx. For more about Women’s Wellness, go to http://www.stelizabeth.com/womenswellness/default.aspx.

Provided by St. Elizabeth Healthcare/Photo: Cathy Halloran, left (Rich Lohre)