Komen Race for the Cure honors Bangor survivor

Posted Aug. 22, 2011, at 9:53 p.m.

BANGOR — The Susan G. Komen Maine Race for the Cure in Bangor and survivor sponsor Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway honor Survivor of the Week Joan Roberts of Bangor, one of the co-founders of the Bangor race.

“I kind of have this new energy about me,” said Roberts in response to her reconnecting with the Komen Maine Race for the Cure after several years away. “Maybe it is being on the other side of it, or maybe it is being a breast cancer survivor and knowing that I have more to offer in a different way now.”

In 2008, right before her 50th birthday, Roberts was diagnosed with lobular carcinoma in situ.

“I wasn’t surprised since I had several other factors which put me at an elevated risk,” said Roberts. “I quickly moved into action. My risk of breast cancer was at least 50 percent and would increase with each passing year. I was given three options.

“The first option was to continue to do vigilant follow-up with annual mammograms, MRIs and clinical breast exams,” she said. “The second option was to add Tamoxifen to the vigilant follow-up for five years. And the third was to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. Even with those options, none of which were very appealing, I did consider myself lucky. I had time to make a decision, and the option of researching and choosing my own plan of action.”

Between 2007 and 2008, Roberts Joan had three breast biopsies.

“There is nothing quite like waiting 19 days for results,” said Roberts. “I would choose to have a bilateral mastectomy. I knew that one day I would have breasts, and the next day I would not. It took me about a year to wrap my mind around that and to find the right reconstruction for me. After consults with oncologists, breast surgeons and plastic surgeons from Bangor to Portland, and ultimately to Boston, I found my ‘medical team’ at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.”

Roberts chose to have the DIEP — deep inferior epigastric perforator — which replaces breast tissue with a transfer from one’s own abdominal fat in a 14½-hour surgery that would ultimately render her cancer-free.

“Now my breast cancer risk is 0-2 percent,” Roberts said, “and I am honored to be there for other women facing their own risk of breast cancer.”

Roberts helped co-found the Komen Maine Race for the Cure in 1997 after Rosemary Baldacci participated in a Komen Race in Washington, D.C. Roberts worked as a founding member of the Komen Maine Race for the Cure and served as one of the first chairwomen of the Maine Race.

“We met in living rooms. There was just a handfull of us,” Roberts said. “We had to first find somebody who knew about a road race, because they had to map out an official 5K. We had to find sponsorships, find people who could coordinate volunteers, people who could do communications and marketing, and really just sketching it out from the ground up. We did it, and it was new to all of us.”

“I joined Komen because I wanted to be a part of something that provided support and education for breast cancer survivors and helped to eradicate this disease,” she said. “In the end Komen was my starting point in my own research.”

The Bangor Race will celebrate its 15th annual race on Sunday, Sept. 18. To find out how to get involved with the Komen Maine Race for the Cure, visit www.komenmaine.org or call 262-7117.

Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway is the survivor sponsor for the 2011 Race. As part of its support, Hollywood Slots will hold a reception the night before the race for survivors participating in the race and a guest. Race participants who are survivors can RSVP for the Survivor Reception at www.komenmaine.org.

The Komen Race for the Cure started in Bangor in 1997. It has grown steadily over the years, reaching a record-breaking 5,600 participants and raising more than $330,000 in 2010.

To date, the Komen Maine Affiliate has invested more than $2.25 million in Maine for education, screening and treatment programs; and more than $650,000 in breast cancer research through the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Grants Program. Nearly $500,000 has returned to Maine in the form of research grants through that program.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Promise is “to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures.”

Hollywood Slots Hotel & Raceway is a Penn National Gaming property located on Main Street. For more information, visit www.hollywoodslots.com.

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