Breast Cancer: Not Just One Woman's Fight

A young survivor brings breast cancer awareness to her community, raising more than $19K for cancer research

Amy Austin's breast cancer diagnosis inspired her to do something to fight back. The Prouty and "Pink Night" celebrations bring her community together, showing people how to support friends and loved ones who have fought and continue to fight breast cancer.

Amy Austin’s Prouty Team raises money to help fight breast cancer

Amy Austin's Prouty team, "Fight for Second": Back row (L to R): Matt Nelson, Brian Nelson, Logan Briggs, Dawn Glidden, Duane Glidden, Jay Soucy; Middle row (L to R): Sally Russell, Nick Marks, Leslie Robbins, Amy Austin, Kathi Nelson, Mary Jo Shrum, Vern Schrum; Front: Gabby Antone, Parker Briggs, Jarod Nelson;

It started as a "white dot" under her arm. Amy Austin asked her doctor about it and was told not to worry—but it grew larger. When she went to have it removed 8 months later the 38-year-old mother of two was diagnosed with stage 3b breast cancer.

"I had no warning," she said. "There is no history of breast cancer in my family, I eat well, and I'm fit."

That spring she had breast cancer surgery, and just one week after starting chemotherapy she walked the 5K Prouty with her husband, sister, two sons, and several friends. That first year her team, "Fight for Second," raised nearly $3,000 for NCCC. Then she went home, completed her chemo and radiation therapy over the summer, and began working on the next year's Prouty fundraising goal.

Breast cancer is everyone's fight

"Breast Cancer isn't just a woman's fight, this is everyone's fight," she says about her commitment to breast cancer awareness. "The Prouty is especially good this way because people on teams can do different things. Some of us bike, this year we had ten kids who walked."

Austin's two sons were on that first team walk in 2011, but now many kids are involved in the fundraising as well as participating in the event. She notes that seven-year-old twins on the Prouty team raised money at a lemonade stand, and there are many activities for kids at the fundraisers she organizes. "I think it teaches kids to think about more than themselves—and they really enjoy giving back," she says.

Just 3 years after diagnosis, more than $19,000 raised to fight breast cancer
Prouty team member Leslie Robbins rides in this shirt decorated with ribbons to honor those touched by cancer

People from Arizona, Montreal, Oregon, and the North Country donated to team member Leslie Robbins ride, and honored loved ones touched by cancer with a ribbon attached to her shirt.

This year at The Prouty Austin biked 50 miles. Her 2013 "Fight for Second" team included walkers, runners, and bikers—even one 200 mile rider. People from Arizona, Montreal, Oregon, and the North Country donated to team member Leslie Robbins' ride, and honored loved ones touched by cancer with a ribbon attached to her shirt (see photo). The team's 3-year Prouty total is over $19,000.

Honoring those fighting or lost to breast cancer, showing a community how to help

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and for the last three years Austin has organized a fall community event, "Pink Night," in Littleton, NH.

The evening starts with a Community Walk for Hope where neighbors and friends honor those who have fought, or continue to fight, breast cancer by floating pink carnations in the Ammonoosuc River. Then the community gathers for a night of fun—raffles of area business services and products, refreshments, salon treatments, karate classes, and other activities for kids and adults—all to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer.

"I'm a survivor. I will always be involved," said Austin. "I was lucky: I had fantastic care, great insurance, and access to the most advanced technology. I want women with breast cancer to have access to even better care than I did. To do this, researchers need funds to improve treatment and care."

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October 14, 2013