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‘Feeling of hope’

Posted: October 20th, 2017 | Feature, Top Story | No Comments

By Joyell Nevins

Mission Hills woman named 2017 Honorary Breast Cancer Survivor

“It was a light along the way — what at times was a very hard way.”

That’s how Mission Hills resident and breast cancer survivor Christine Trimble describes the Susan G. Komen San Diego (Komen SD) foundation. Meet Trimble and support the foundation’s efforts at its annual Race for the Cure, held from 6:30-10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5, in Balboa Park.

Mission Hills resident Christine Trimble, with her dog Einstein, who was a faithful companion during her battle against breast cancer (Courtesy of Susan G. Komen San Diego)

In September 2014, Trimble was diagnosed with stage 3C breast cancer, an “aggressive advanced” form of the disease. She had just started chemotherapy when a co-worker at Qualcomm, where Trimble is the vice president of public affairs, suggested she come to Komen SD’s Race for the Cure. Trimble didn’t know much about the organization or the event, but agreed to come.

Before the race begins, all survivors are honored on stage in a special ceremony. They are brought up in groups by the number of years they’ve survived. Being just a couple months into her treatment, Trimble was the only one in her group.

“I looked out at this sea of pink and I didn’t feel like a survivor,” Trimble recalled. “I thought, I’m not sure that I can get through this, but next year I’m going to be one of those [survivors] in the other groups.”

After chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiation, Trimble’s cancer was declared in remission in fall 2015. But she marks that moment at the race as a turning point in her cancer battle.

“Looking at those thousands of faces, it was very emotional. It was so inspirational, and so empowering. I just had this feeling of hope,” Trimble said. “I knew it was giving me the boost I needed.”

Trimble also credits her husband Kent, with whom she just celebrated 22 years; her son, Nicholas; her extended family (including a sister and brother-in-law in the medical field) and some incredible friends for being her support system. They offered both emotional support — Trimble refers to Kent as “my cheerleader” — and practical support.

“When people say ‘if you need something, let me know’ … well, at the time, you don’t really know what you need,” Trimble said.

But her circle of friends and family recognized and filled her needs. They accompanied Trimble to doctor’s appointments, helping take notes and making sure the right questions were asked (Trimble notes that there is a huge onslaught of information coming at you in those appointments). A group organized a meal schedule online, so every day she had chemotherapy there was a hot meal dropped off for her family.

“It was so nice — one less thing I had to worry about,” Trimble said.

Even her dog ‘Stein (short for Einstein) was a comforting companion. When she felt sick from a treatment, Trimble said, “he would be so content to sit next to me.” She admits that ‘Stein was bought as a family dog, but both Kent and Nicholas acknowledge that animal is completely hers!

A broader picture

Helping meet emotional and practical needs in other breast cancer survivor’s lives is something Komen SD strives to do. But the organization doesn’t provide these services themselves: they work as a giant network to get women the resources they need.

Komen SD is an expert at identifying a need and finding a way to fill it — “bridging barriers to care,” as they say. Every two years, leadership has a “needs assessment” summit. They determine what they believe the holes in services are, and what San Diego women and families specifically need in the fight against breast cancer. This time around, those barriers that need to be bridged include under-insurance, lack of time and transportation, illiteracy, low finances, diagnostics, lack of support, issues with HMOs and cultural barriers.

Two women prepare to participate in the 2016 Race for the Cure. (komensandiego.org)

Then once a year, Komen SD holds a blind and competitive grant process for local nonprofits that cross those bridges. In 2017-18, Komen SD granted more than $1.2 million to the following organizations: 2-1-1 San Diego, a health navigation program in breast health care; Community Heath Imaging Centers of San Diego’s Mobile Mammography Coach (which Trimble actually used); Mama’s Kitchen, a no-cost meal delivery service for patients’ families; education programs at Vista Community Clinic, San Ysidro Health Center POWER/PODER, Family Health Centers of San Diego, and San Diego Black Nurses Inc.’s “Keeping Abreast of Our Needs.”

Komen SD also gave grants to Health Quality Partners, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, and La Maestra Family Clinic, which all provide breast cancer services to low-income, uninsured and underinsured patients.

A significant portion of those grant funds comes from the Race for the Cure and its counterparts Row for the Cure, Dine Out for the Cure, Pups for the Cause, and Sleep In for the Cure.

Of every dollar raised through the race, 25 cents go into the national Susan G. Komen Foundation pool to support research for new drugs and treatment and ultimately, a cure. The other 75 cents stay in house and funds the Komen SD mission. None of the race profits go to support the administrative or marketing side – all of that is covered by corporate sponsors. Komen SD is still seeking runners, supporters and financial donors for the event.

The last word

And for those still fighting their cancer battle, Trimble offers these words of hope and advice:

“You’re going to have bad days — it’s OK to go rest,” she said. “Focus on yourself and what your body needs.”

For more information or to register for the race, visit komensandiego.org, call 858-573-2760 or follow Komen San Diego on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. If you come in person, check out Trimble’s “Pretty in Pink” team (just look for the ‘80s hair and Molly Ringwald references).

— Joyell Nevins is a freelance writer who can be reached at joyellc@gmail.com. Find her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com.

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