The Canal Winchester Times

Purple & Pink luncheon

Speaker to discuss his bout with breast cancer

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According to the American Cancer Society, about 2,240 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed among men this year in the United States.

Approximately 410 will die from the disease.

It's a statistic not many are aware of, particularly men.

That's why Jowanda Thomas, the founder of Purple & Pink, a local nonprofit cancer-awareness group, chose a man to be the guest speaker at its annual luncheon.

The event is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Hilton Easton.

Ron Coleman is dean of students at Stebbins High School in the Dayton area. He is a coach, a husband, and the father of NFL player Kurt Coleman a former Ohio State University football player.

He is also a breast cancer survivor.

"And he found the lump himself," said Thomas, a big proponent of self-exams and self-awareness. "And he's a man! Most men don't do this. Early detection saved his life."

It saved hers as well, some nine years ago.

Coleman will top a list of events planned for this year's luncheon, meant to celebrate those who are supporting loved ones who are battling cancer.

"So often, the supporters are neglected," said Thomas, "so we wanted to let them know how important they are to their survivors."

She said supporters provide an extra set of eyes and ears at an appointment.

They are the ones to pick their loved ones up when they are down, and are there at the most critical moments during the long and difficult battle with cancer.

Thomas, who was diagnosed with breast cancer almost a decade ago, knows all too well how important those supporters are.

In the fall of 2004, at the age of 40, Thomas learned she had breast cancer.

As the wife of an area pastor, mother of three, and volunteer at Kae Avenue Elementary School in Whitehall, she was devastated.

Just five months prior to her diagnosis, she had been given a clean bill of health by her physician.

Thomas said she found a small lump during a routine self-exam, but thought little of it at first.

Soon, she was facing stage 3 cancer, chemotherapy and surgery.

Her doctors advised her to undergo eight rounds of chemotherapy, using three different drugs -- one of them very aggressive.

But after only one treatment, Thomas said, she felt horrible. Her hair fell out, her nails turned black, her tongue turned black and she could barely walk.

So she asked that the lump be removed right away.

Thomas underwent surgery Dec. 21, just four days before Christmas.

But when the doctors opened her up, all they found was necrosis -- dead tissue. The cancerous lump had been reduced to the size of a pea and died.

And the explanation for the phenomenon? Thomas has only one.

She attributes it to the power of prayer.

Out of her own battle with breast cancer, Thomas founded Purple & Pink.

The familiar color of pink signifies the fight against breast cancer. Thomas added purple to signify the faith aspect of the battle, one she says she could not have fought without God.

Today, Thomas lives in Canal Winchester but continues to pour her time and energy into Purple & Pink. Each year, she and the organization host a luncheon, sponsor scholarships, concerts and screenings.

In addition to other speakers, this year's luncheon will feature healthy fare, giveaways, some special awards and, of course, the traditional survivors' strut.

"There will be lots of fun and laughter," added Thomas, "and lots of joy."

Proceeds from the luncheon go toward the Purple & Pink cause and its family scholarship fund.

Tickets are $50 each and can be purchased online at www.purpleandpink.org, or by calling 614-746-0620.

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