Two Yorktown residents have been named Walk Ambassadors for the Annual Support-a-Walk organized by Support Connection, a non-profit organization that provides support and services to people battling breast or ovarian cancer. This year's walk will take place on Oct. 7 (rain or shine) at FDR State Park.
Mary Heagle, Mohegan Lake
Heagle’s experience with breast cancer began when her mother died of the disease at age 37 when Heagle was only 2 years old. Eventually, seven more women in her family were diagnosed with cancer, including four with breast cancer, one with ovarian cancer, and one with uterine cancer. Because of this, Heagle was always proactive and alert. In fact, while dating her husband, she tried to prepare him for what she planned to do if (or when) she was diagnosed.
In 2006, when Heagle was told after a routine breast screening that something warranted testing, she sprang into action.
“I’d do anything I needed to do, to fight. I just wanted to be alive and I wouldn’t let it defeat me,” Heagle said.
In addition the best possible medical care, Heagle knew she needed help with the complicated emotions she felt. And she was concerned for her 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. She knew how hard it was to lose her own mom and didn’t want her own children to be frightened while she underwent mastectomies and chemotherapy.
That’s why Heagle reached out to Support Connection. She joined a support group, which, she said, made a huge difference.
“It helped me get out of bed in the morning,” Heagle said. “I always looked forward to it. The camaraderie was terrific and it made me feel I wasn’t alone.”
Heagle also spoke regularly to two of Support Connection’s peer counselors about everything on her mind, including how to help her children.
“I call them my guardian angels,” she said. “They helped me get my life back together in a way I never thought possible.”
In order to give back, Heagle and her family have attended the Support-a-Walk for many years, raising more than $8,000 to date. When asked to be a Walk Ambassador this year, Heagle agreed right away.
“I believe in Support Connection and all the wonderful services they provide,” she said. “My family and I will be forever indebted to them. In my time of need, I could not have had any better. I’ll always be here to give a hand in any way possible.”
Heagle hopes her story will inspire others to participate.
“Support Connection has helped me and so many others I know,” she said. “The Support-a-Walk is one of the main fundraisers that makes these free services possible. Support Connection is a community organization—people can actually see where their donations are going and how the money is being used. Please join us!”
Mary Jane Taxter, Yorktown Heights
Mary Jane Taxter was in the hospital on her 75th birthday in 2016 for what was supposed to be routine minor surgery. When she woke up from the anesthesia, she was surprised to see two of her children there. She quickly learned why: when the doctors began her surgery, they “saw cancer everywhere.” Taxter had ovarian cancer that had already spread beyond her ovaries.
Taxter had cared for cancer patients as a nurse many years ago and knew there'd been much progress since then. She is also very pragmatic. Nevertheless, her diagnosis was a shock for her and for her family. In the past two years, she has completed two rounds of chemotherapy and is now on a third regimen. Her family members have all been there every step of the way, helping any way they can. But Taxer wanted to connect with someone who’d been through what she was going through.
About a month after her diagnosis, Taxter called Support Connection and spoke with a peer counselor. Describing this call, she said, “I got my first words of encouragement I’d heard since I was diagnosed.”
In addition to conversations with her peer counselor, Taxter joined some of Support Connection’s group programs, such as a monthly canasta group and an art workshop. She loves being with people and finds the programs meet her needs.
“It’s a chance to be in a room with other women who’ve had similar experiences,” Taxter said. The women are very supportive.”
She took part in her first Support-a-Walk last year as a fundraiser and team captain. Because she was still in chemo and unable to walk at the event, she asked friends and family to help. They all pitched in: Her son set up her online fundraising page where Taxter wrote: “I am seeking both walkers and donors to help me champion this wonderful group that provides support for women everywhere who are breast and ovarian cancer survivors.” Her granddaughter designed shirts with the team name “Grandma’s Cool Cats.” A group of family members and friends attended on her behalf. Her team raised more than $1,100.
Taxter said she is delighted to be a Support-a-Walk Ambassador.
“Right now, there’s not a lot I’m able to do physically to get involved,” she said. “I was looking around thinking, what can I do to help? So when I was asked to be an Ambassador, I was happy to say yes. I also want to show other senior citizens that if I can get through this, they can, too.”
Taxter encourages everyone to take part in the Support-a-Walk.
“It’s something I believe in,” she said. “It’s a way that families and anyone can come together to support cancer survivors. The more people get involved, the stronger Support Connection will be for all the people who need them.”
To donate to the Support-a-Walk, or to learn how to participate or fundraise, visit supportconnection.org or call 914-962-6402.