Kara and Craig Passante will be the grand marshals at the Sullivan County Relay for Life Event on June 1. The cancer survivor said support from her husband, family and community were integral to successfully overcoming Stage 3 breast cancer.
Story by Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE May 28, 2013 When Kara Passante says the American Cancer Society saved her life, she isn’t exaggerating.
Monies raised for and distributed by the non-profit directly helped in the creation of two important cancer-fighting drugs, Tamoxifen and Herceptin. Both were crucial parts of the protocol that stopped the Stage 3 breast cancer setting up house in the Jeffersonville mom’s chest.
So when Gayle Clark-Irving, head of the Sullivan County Relay for Life, asked Passante to be grand marshal of this year’s event, saying no wasn’t an option. Since being diagnosed at 29, shortly after giving birth to the second of her two daughters with husband Craig, fighting cancer has been her biggest goal. And that didn’t stop after her mastectomy or chemo. It hasn’t stopped now that she’s in remission.
She’s walked in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. She’s joined fellow cancer survivor Gloriann Ellison in building Ellison’s “baby,” Ride for Survive, a project that puts gas cards in the hands of cancer patients to help cover the immense burden of traveling for treatment. And now this, the grand marshal of this year’s Sullivan County Relay for Life.
“I was very touched and humbled that I could represent something so important,” Passante said of Clark-Irving’s request.
She was asked to nominate a caregiver marshal to serve along with her, and Passante knew exactly who to name.
Husband Craig was there every step of the way, from the shocking diagnosis at just 29, through the sickness of chemotherapy, through losing her hair, through mastectomy. Through it all.
“He, just as much as my doctors, saved my life,” Passante said. “He fought to get me appointments, he got me in to see the best doctors, called in every favor he had to get me seen as fast as possible and never stopped fighting right along side me.
“No one saw the handful of times that I completely, and undeniably came undone and out of control with fear and sadness and pain,” she admits. “And my beautiful husband, a man so many see as a rough and tough, no nonsense guy, would say all the right things and literally pick me up off the floor and get me to hold my head up high so that I KNEW I was going to get through this. That WE were going to get through it.”
They have gotten through it. Their beautiful daughters have their mommy.
And Kara Passante is still fighting.
She’s fighting for her husband and her kids but also for a community that threw themselves behind her. On Mother’s Day in 2011, a band of dancers led by Passante’s sister, Amber Welton, shut down Main Street Jeffersonville to throw a flash mob to let her know the community was there for her. For three months, her freezer was so stocked she never had to make dinner. Always there were people behind her.
“The biggest thing I learned about cancer? It made me see the good in people,” Passante says.
The community support meant everything to her then, and this is the message she hopes current cancer patients see in the volunteers who will head out to Sullivan County Community College on June 1 for the annual Relay for Life.
“It kind of gives you this thing to fight for,” she says of a community backing you. “It’s not just woe is me, it’s bigger than me. People are rooting for ME.”
This year’s Relay for Life kicks off at 11 a.m. on June 1 at Sullivan County Community College. For more information, visit their Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/165690700259216/