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Olson: Breast cancer more than just trendy cause

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

If you lost a wallet full of cash in a public place, my mother, Dawn Olson, would be the person you’d have wanted to find it.

She would have returned it to you, no question.

We used to kind of poke fun at mom when she’d say something like “Hector Majector,” or “Jiminy Christmas” when she was upset or surprised. It also was funny the way she politely addressed rude drivers.

“I’m sorry if I’m not going fast enough for you, sir,” she’d say to someone whose behavior really didn’t merit that level of respect.

Mom always was proud she never got in an accident or had a speeding ticket.

I’m the oldest, and kind of a mama’s boy, but I always respected mom as well as loved her. She was honest, brave and thoughtful.

For more than half the time I knew her, she battled breast cancer.

The disease runs in the family. It afflicted my great-grandmother and a great aunt, too.

I was in junior high school when mom was first diagnosed in the early 1990s. They started her on a regimen of chemotherapy and later she had operations. Mom’s beautiful black hair fell out. She was sick in bed for a long time.

She was young and otherwise healthy, though. She pulled through. The cancer went into remission. Mom saw me graduate from high school. She dropped me off for my first day at college. She combed my unruly hair on the day of my wedding.

She held both of my daughters. My youngest daughter’s middle name is Dawn in her honor.

Unfortunately, the cancer returned in the 2000s.

Things were tough for mom and for dad the second time, though they didn’t want us to know exactly how tough. They didn’t want it to stop us from living our lives.

“Don’t worry about me,” Mom would always say.

Of course, my brother, sister and I always did.

Mom died on the day after Mother’s Day in 2008. She was 58; I was 30. I am so thankful she was in our lives for so long. I miss her and I think of her often.

I’m sharing her story with you because October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Sadly, the story isn’t unique. More than 230,000 Americans were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2011, and almost 40,000 died from it, according to the American Cancer Society.

Put another way, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in lifetimes, and 1 in 36 will die from it.

If you have a chance to help in the fight against breast cancer, please seize it. It’s more than just a trendy fundraising cause.

Unlike some of the other literal and figurative “wars” our society has chosen to embark upon, this is one we can all agree is worth fighting. It’s one we really can win.

Previous generations stopped plagues such as polio, diphtheria, tuberculosis and malaria. I hope that our generation can solve breast cancer, or just cancer, period.

I think of the women that I love: My wife, my sister, my two daughters. I hope they won’t have to endure what mom did to be part of their children’s lives.

If you or your family are struggling with this disease, please be strong and take heart. You can beat it.

• • •

TIF-a-riffic?: The DeKalb City Council is going to hear a report soon on whether more of the city should be designated for tax increment financing.

According to reporter David Thomas’ story on the front page of Thursday’s Daily Chronicle, there are three sites that could fit the bill for new tax-increment financing measures.

The city already has two tax increment financing districts, and they seem to be working as intended. Darden Restaurants, operator of the Olive Garden chain, appears likely to redevelop the former site of Small’s Furniture City on Sycamore Road, provided the city follows through on a plan to loan the company $900,000 in tax increment financing funds. The second special taxing district will have close to $6 million on hand by June 30, city officials said.

There are certainly other areas of the city where redevelopment is needed, but you can do too much with tax increment financing.

DeKalb officials can create as many districts as they want, but the real question is, how many more can the city support?

Let’s not forget that when these districts are created, the property taxes that local governments collect from them are frozen for 23 years. School District 428 expects to run a $2.3 million deficit this year, and it wouldn’t seem the district is in a position to have a whole lot more of its tax base frozen for more than two decades.

• • •

Helping out dad: Stephanie Abbott’s father, William Abbott Jr., has been sick for years with liver disease.

William, 48, of Cortland, has cirrhosis and hepatitis, Stephanie says, and the time is drawing near when he must find a liver donor. If anyone’s going to be expected to donate part of their liver, well, the family’s going to have to solicit some donations themselves to cover the medical expenses, whether they find a live donor or a cadaver who is a match.

He has been on the transfer list for two years, Stephanie Abbott said.

“We’re going to have to raise some kind of money because my dad can’t afford it and neither can anyone else,” said Stephanie, a 2001 DeKalb High School grad who lives in Belvidere.

The family is planning a “Liver for Bill Benefit” on Oct. 20 at Mardi Gras Lanes, 1730 Sycamore Road, in DeKalb. Tickets cost $20 a person, with bowling check-in beginning at 6 p.m. and the bowling starting at 7 p.m.

There will be prizes, a silent auction, bake sale and more.

Stephanie said her dad’s goal has been to live long enough to see Stephanie’s son, 6-year-old Bryce, graduate from high school, and they’re hoping the community and doctors can help him reach that goal.

Exceeding it would be great, too.

• • •

Happy Homecoming: To all the Northern Illinois University alumni who’ve returned. Party like it’s 1999. Or 1989, or 1979 as the case may be.

On second thought, those dates I just threw out are getting to be quite a long time ago. Maybe you should take it a little easier. How about partying like it’s 2007?

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 257, or email eolson@shawmedia.com, and follow him on Twitter @DC_Editor.

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