RUMFORD — Denise Garcia has been nearly overwhelmed by the meals, support and incredible amount of caring the community has shown her since she was diagnosed with breast cancer two months ago.

“I was scared and in shock,” said the Mountain Valley Athletic Boosters member and dental assistant. “This community is phenomenal when people have health issues.”

Among her most active and caring supporters are two area women who have been through what Garcia has just begun.

Jeanne LaPointe of Rumford was diagnosed on Dec. 14, 2012, and has been through the chemotherapy and radiation regimens. Her first mammogram since the diagnosis is in January.

Nancy Lever was diagnosed in March 2011 and was declared cancer-free after going through the therapies.

Garcia’s sister, Melanie Calden, has been by Garcia’s side through her first two therapies, organizes thrice-weekly meals for her and is there when she needs support.

On Saturday, the Mountain Valley Athletic Boosters is sponsoring a 5k walk to benefit Garcia and her family.

Registration begins at 8 a.m. at Hosmer Field, and the walk begins at 9 a.m. Cost for participating is $25.

LaPointe said nearly 200 people have signed up to take part in the walk, and the community raised about $1,600 for the purchase of pink T-shirts for the participants who registered early.

All three women had lumpectomies and had or will undergo chemotherapy, radiation and drug treatment.

Although Garcia has medical insurance, the cost for the treatments and the drug regimen, as well as the travel and other associated needs, runs into the tens of thousands of dollars.

LaPointe and Lever were thankful for all the support they received during their bouts with the disease.

“You can’t do it by yourself,” Lever said.

LaPointe said that during her treatments, she received support from high school, college and work friends. A group made her hats to wear when her hair fell out as a result of the treatments. Many people sent her cards and brought food, and Nancy checked on her after her eight-hour chemo treatments. Her husband was always there for her, she said.

Although there are no breast cancer support groups in the River Valley now, those at The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing in Lewiston are considering expanding to the north. 

Lever said anyone who faces breast cancer is welcome to contact her through Rumford Hospital. The three women have been or are being treated at the Rumford Hospital and at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

The women offered several things to watch for and think about:

* Know your body. Often times, a woman notices that something unusual may be going on.

* Have annual mammograms.

* Find a support group.

* Realize that the first chemotherapy treatment is the worst.

* Learn as much as possible about the disease and side effects of the drugs.

* Stay positive and active.


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