Pushing for plenty of purple

May 23, 2019

DIXON – During her fight with two types of stage 4 breast cancer, Deb Barth has seen several businesses promote types of cancer treatment awareness through store decorations and names on different types of ribbons.

June is Cancer Survivor Awareness Month, and Barth’s home away from home, Home of Hope Cancer Wellness Center in Dixon, is increasing its efforts to promote it.

Home of Hope is expanding on a successful annual drive to raise money to promote survivor awareness and Paint the Community Purple – the color associated with cancer survivors.

A sea of purple ribbons throughout the Sauk Valley would be a beautiful sight, said Barth, 56, of Dixon, who has been fighting her cancers for 5 years; one aggressive and one more standard. 

“It helps the people going through it, whether they are a patient, or are family, just to see us not being ignored,” Barth said. “The sharing of it, it’s people sending love on, or noticing it and wanting to do something and carry them on through life.”

Several businesses throughout Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties are helping Home of Hope by decorating windows, walls and shelves with purple paper ribbons from June 9 to 22. Each ribbon costs $1, and names of loved ones can be written on them in tribute.

“It’s just really important that our community understands what patients go through and what their families go through, and that there’s an actual organization here in our community that is there to walk with them during their time,” Home of Hope Executive Director Joan Padilla said.

Home of Hope had operated its June drive at County Market in Sterling for 2 years; now the grocery store now will be one of 43 businesses that will promote the purple ribbons.

Margo Ackland, 68, of Mount Morris fought stage 3 triple negative breast cancer, one that is difficult to treat, but it went into remission 7 years ago. Ackland worked at Kable News Co. in Mount Morris before it moved out of town a decade ago. 

She was very open about her diagnosis, and said that made a lot of people want to support her. That included people who chose to make donations at local businesses.

“You can see the support that way,” Ackland said. “I felt the support with the people around me, and that’s a visual confirmation of it.”

Ackland and Barth met at Home of Hope 5 years ago. Along the way, they have interacted with fellow patients and family members of those affected. They’ve done yoga, reiki – which is a form of touch therapy – and participated in several “lunch and learn” sessions about cancer-related topics.

Remaining positive and keeping spirits high when pain brings negativity has helped Ackland and Barth get through it.

“The biggest thing through all of it is, and I’ve seen it with other people, too, is there is such fear and anxiety, tension, and you don’t feel good to different degrees, depending what you’re going through,” Barth said. “You’re holding all of that in constantly. When I came here, I started with a group with other people. We had that collective sense of, ’Hey, we’re all going through this.”

“I have seen people get this diagnosis and give up right away,” Ackland said. “I was not a person to give up. I started with two grandchildren, and now I have six. My children all rallied together and gave me a purpose for living.”

Ackland’s oncologist started her treatment with the last resort chemotherapy first because it was a very aggressive cancer; she had 12 of those treatments, and four regular chemotherapy treatments. 

Once the chemo was out of her system, she had a bilateral mastectomy, and after that healed up enough, underwent 33 radiation treatments. She’ll be on a chemo pill for the rest of her life.

“It has shocked my oncologist,” Ackland said. “There have been some days that he says my blood looks better than his.”

Barth said anyone going through a hardship or cancer can have plenty of stress relieved through Home of Hope’s programs. She’s made plenty of personal strides as well, gaining a sense of internal calmness and taking better care of herself.

“It’s been a huge growing experience,” Barth said. “I started out quiet, shy and introverted, and constantly consumed with stage 4 cancer. Now, it’s a little bit of a roller coaster; it will come and go, but I handle it a lot better than how I used to.”

One out of four people will be affected by cancer during their lifetimes, Padilla said. 

“Our goal is to see the storefronts just become a sea of purple throughout our community.”

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