Meet Cynthia and Lila – Breast cancer survivors who have benefited from Komen Ozark funding

There’s a lot to be said for reading someone’s story in her own words. You can hear the inner strength they’ve gained from their struggles. Take a minute to read. You won’t go away unmoved.

Cynthia and Lila are two breast cancer survivors from Branson, Missouri who reached out to share how grant funding made a difference in their lives. They showcase nurse navigator – Marcy Keltner and tell how having access to a navigator made a positive difference in their breast cancer journey. What is a nurse navigator?  A nurse navigator is an educator, advocate, coordinator and often case-manager for patients and their caregivers throughout their cancer care experience.

Meet Cynthia!

cynthiaCynthia Toolen is a busy vibrant young wife and mother who was determined not to let cancer get in the way of life. Her story begins in mid-January 2015. “I brushed my hand across my chest to move my hair away and that’s when I felt a lump,” she said. She soon scheduled an appointment with her doctor and from there was sent for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy.

“I’ll never forget the feeling I had when they took me into the room and said I had cancer, Triple Negative Breast Cancer.” Cynthia said. “As soon as my appointment was over, I had to go upstairs to my son’s appointment with his pediatrician. That’s when I stopped crying and wiped away my tears because I knew right then and there I had to fight and beat my cancer. I had two choices, I could sit and cry about it or I could do something about it.”

On Feb. 12, she went in for a single mastectomy. In all, Cynthia had six chemotherapy treatments and five surgeries. “I couldn’t believe how fast it all went,” she said. Cynthia was only 35 at the time – too young for a screening mammogram. Instead of getting lost in internet research and worry about “what ifs,” she focused her energy on enjoying life.

“We had fun shaving my head,” said Cynthia, who had long hair at the time. “Losing my hair really didn’t bother me. I had fun with it and had a couple of different wigs.”

Cynthia found great support through CoxHealth Cancer Center Branson Patient Navigator Marcy Keltner, whose position is made possible through a grant awarded to Skaggs Foundation by Susan G. Komen Ozark.

“Marcy was always wonderful,” Cynthia said. “I was nervous about going in for treatments. She’d greet me with a big hug. Before, all my treatments and follow up appointments, I’d go in and meet with her.” Marcy was able to not only provide Cynthia with an understanding of what to expect, but also provided her with items to make her journey more comfortable.

While Cynthia is grateful for all of the care and support she received throughout her journey, she said she hopes that other women understand their own strength. “Your mind is very powerful, never underestimate it,” she said. “You can choose to make your journey good or you can choose to make your journey bad. It’s when you choose to make it good, that is when you realize the strength you have and nothing can stand in your way.”

Meet Lila!lila

It was a year ago in July that 79-year-old Lila Tuter, of Kimberling City, discovered a lump under her arm. “The family doctor said I needed to get a mammogram,” she recalled. “Deep down, I knew I had cancer.”

In a matter of just a couple of weeks, Lila had 18 lymph nodes removed – five of which were cancerous. She soon started a year of chemotherapy treatments and 33 radiation treatments at CoxHealth Cancer Center Branson.

“When I went to see my oncologist, Dr. Gonzalez, I was referred to Marcy,” Lila said. “Marcy took me in and spent so much time with me, explaining to me how each of the chemo treatments would affect me and she also gave me a wig.”

Lila said Marcy’s expert advice was a huge comfort when life was scary. “I felt like I had someone I could lean on,” Lila said. “I had someone there, who I could call and talk to anytime.” Lila credits Marcy for where she is today. She explained that after enduring her first round of chemotherapy, she wanted to stop. “If I had not had Marcy talk me into it, I probably would not have finished that first set,” she said.

Komen Ozark also made it possible for Lila to receive gas cards to help with travel expenses. Lila said she was blown away by everyone’s kindness. “I have been treated like royalty,” she said.





2016 Survivorship Conference



Komen Ozark was proud to present the first Survivorship Conference at the Center for Seniors – Washington Regional Medical Center. The conference was attended by about 50 participants who heard from Komen Scholar, Dr. Danny Welch on advances in metastatic breast cancer research and Peggy Johnson, Komen Advocate in Science about how research is managed by Susan G. Komen and the role of patient advocates in the process. Dr. Thaddeus Beck – Highlands Oncology Group – presented on the latest in breast cancer vaccine trials. Dr. Danna Grear – The Breast Center – gave insights on screenings required following a cancer diagnosis. Dr. Stephan Rosenfeld – Highlands Oncology Group – discussed recommended after care follow completion of breast cancer treatment. Miki Biggers – Hope Cancer Resources – presented on the emotional aspects of breast cancer. A question and answer forum ended the session. It was a information packed event. Thanks to Rick’s Bakery for providing breakfast and Washington Regional for use of the meeting room and for providing coffee. Komen Ozark will be announcing future topics in the survivorship series.



Hope Cancer Resources – Wellness Program…a small grant in action

Small grants can be powerful and make a big difference! Continue reading and learn how Hope Cancer Resources is piloting an innovative Komen Ozark capacity building small grant.

Their concept… a wellness program for survivors. Breast cancer survivorship is one of 4 funding priorities for the Affiliate.

Hope Cancer Resources will kick off the New Year with a new wellness program to enhance quality of life for breast cancer survivors, their caregivers and family members. Their goal is to offer access to education and a variety of health-oriented activities including:

  • Personal Training
  • Yoga
  • Nutrition Education
  • Stress Reduction
  • Tobacco Cessation

Meet the wellness team:wellness_team_opt

Sandy Prince has a master’s degree in community health from the University of Arkansas. She has recently completed the 500-hour registered Yoga Teacher Training Program at the Arkansas Yoga Center in Fayetteville.

Abbie Sudduth will graduate with a master’s degree in community health from the University of Arkansas this spring and is planning to complete the Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. in early June.

Casey Shelor has a master’s degree in community health from the University of Arkansas. She holds the Tobacco Treatment Specialist and Wellness Coach Certifications from Mayo Clinic. Casey is also currently pursuing her Personal Training Certification from the American Council on Exercise.

This is a great opportunity for 1:1 wellness coaching and participation in many activities to lift the mind, body and spirit.

For more information about the wellness program and services provided, please contact anyone of the wellness team members.

Casey –

Abbie –

Sandy –

All services will be offered free of charge at Hope Cancer Resources in Springdale. The program is open to all types of cancer survivors.

Survivorship Conference December 10, 2016

Komen Ozark is pleased to announce a Survivorship Conference to be held on Saturday, December 1o, 2016. Our speakers will include Dr. Danny Welch, Cancer Biologist and Komen Scholar. Peggy Johnson, Komen Advocate in Science and a panel of local physicians and a social worker to discuss medical and psycho-social aspects of breast cancer survivorship. Learn more about Danny Welch, Peggy Johnson and the details of the conference below.

Dr. Danny Welch, PhDdanny_welch0

As Director of the National Foundation for Cancer Research Center for Metastasis Research at the University of Kansas, Dr. Welch’s research is in the area of Metastasis Suppressor Genes and the biology of metastasis. He is best known for his discovery of 4 of the 24 known metastasis suppressor genes. By definition, these genes suppress metastasis without suppressing growth of the primary tumor. He is also well known for his work in defining the characteristics of cancer metastasis and the author of his book “Cancer Metastasis — Related Genes”

 peggyPeggy Johnson

In 2012, Peggy Johnson was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Peggy helped develop the first free mammography program funded by a Komen Affiliate. After joining the National Board of Directors of Susan G. Komen, Peggy testified before Congressional committees on subjects such as breast cancer research and access to quality healthcare. Other national committee work includes the President’s Action Plan on Breast Cancer, the Intercultural Cancer Council and co-chair of Poland’s first national breast cancer conference in 1996.

Conference Information and Registration

Registration 9:00 am – Conference 9:30 – 12:00 pm

Washington Regional Medical Center at the Pat Walker Center for Seniors

 12 East Appleby Road (Located at the corner of Appleby and North Hills Blvd) Fayetteville

Reservations at or call 479-750-7465.

 Registration is free and limited the first 125 participants who register


2016 Susan G. Komen Advocacy Priorities

Each year, Komen works to identify, through a transparent and broad-based, intensive vetting and selection process, the policy issues that have the greatest potential impact on Komen’s mission. This process includes the collection of feedback from Komen Headquarters leadership, policy staff, and subject matter experts; Komen Affiliates from across the country; advisory groups including the Komen Advocacy Advisory Taskforce (KAAT), Advocates in Science (AIS), and Komen Scholars; and other stakeholders with a vested interest in breast cancer-related issues.  The selected issues are the basis for Komen’s state and federal advocacy work in the coming year.


  • Support for expanded federal funding for biomedical research, especially breast cancer research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Defense (DOD);
  • Support state and federal funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP);
  • Advocate for policies to improve insurance coverage for breast cancer treatments and screening, specifically pertaining to increased access to drug therapies and limiting out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic mammography; and
  • Evaluate state and federal policies to increase awareness, education and access to clinical trials for all patient populations.

A message from BigWig Ben Blakeman

ben-blakeman-3Living in Northwest Arkansas, there are so many passionate people who support causes that can change lives. But, when you think about cancer, and specifically breast cancer, that I think nearly all of us can say it’s something we’ve been personally affected by. Whether it’s an amazing story of survival or by an untimely passing of a loved one, breast cancer has made an impact on who we are. And that is why supporting the Komen Foundation is so important.

Personally, I’ve had friends and family members who have battled different forms of cancer, but as I think about the Ozark Affiliate, a statistic that I can’t get over is that breast cancer occurs in 1 in 8 women. That’s not something we can sit around and wait to change. It’s something we need to work as a community to change, together.


Pink isn’t my color. And wearing a wig takes some courage. What’s important about the Pink Wig Campaign is that it is such a fun way to drive awareness, elicit support and rally a community to get behind something that truly matters. Hosting events and asking our friends in the community to take part and donate to the campaign is just one way the “wigs” can ladder up to such a big goal – to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures.

To that point – I’d love to see you at Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry on Thursday Oct. 6 from 6 to 9 p.m. We’ll be hosting a champagne toast to the Komen Foundation. We’ll also be donating 10 percent of all sales to the Foundation.

Ben Blakeman, G.G.  – Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry



Small grants can make a BIG impact!

The Skaggs Foundation covering the Ozark Affiliate service area of Stone and Taney Counties in Missouri submitted a small grant application to host a lunch and learn, regarding breast health, in each county. They were funded and hosted the first lunch and learn titled “It’s Time For You” with speaker Kelli Gosch, MSH, WHCNP.skaggs1

The one hour “speaker series”  focused on health issues for women with busy lives and making some time for self care, including annual clinical breast exams and mammograms – as a priority. skaggs3

Stone and Taney counties have been identified as a priority target area for the Komen Ozark because South Missouri has:

  • A high number of people unemployed and living below federal poverty rate than rest of affiliate
  • Greater population of aging women
  • Incident trend data show a rise in breast cancer diagnosis
  • Stone and Taney Counties have a late-stage diagnosis rate trend rising
  • Stone County is considered to be 100 percent medically underserved

Thanks to Cox Medical Center in Branson for hosting this very well attended event! If you are interested in learning more about small grant opportunities contact:            Vicki Cowling – Director of Mission Services –


BigWig twisted baker contest at Panera Bread – Fayetteville location!

You don’t want to miss this event! On Wednesday, October 5th starting at 11 am some of our BigWigs will be learning how to twist pink ribbon bagels.

A Panera Bread baker will teach the BigWigs how to make the bagels. The BigWigs will twist and then their three best attempts will be baked! You can come and cast your vote for the best bagel.

The votes will be tallied and the BigWig with the most votes will a draw the name of someone that has attended the event. The prize winner will receive a “bagel for a year” card.  It will be super fun to see our BigWigs in action! Mark your calendars for October 5th @ 11am – Panera Bread – Fayetteville.


Panera Bread – Pink Ribbon Bagels are BACK!

panera-bread-pink-ribbon-bagelEach year, our wonderful friends at Panera Bread partner with Komen Ozark during the month of October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. They make the most incredible pink ribbon bagels made with cherry chips, dried cherries, cranberries, vanilla, honey and brown sugar. Friday, October 14 – 100% of all sales will be provided to Komen Ozark to help fund local breast health services and to assist in our efforts to meet Susan G. Komen’s Bold Goal to reduce breast cancer deaths by 50% over the next decade! Plus, Panera provides a portion of all pink ribbon bagel sales throughout the entire month to Komen Ozark.

Panera offers the community the opportunity to pre-order Pink Ribbon Bagels. This option allows Panera to fulfill the demand for Pink Ribbon Bagels while maximizing fundraising. You can complete a pre-order form using the website below.

(Please note that all forms sent to Teresa in Fort Smith for the NWA area will be forwarded to our Springdale office)