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Cancer survivor gets wings in charity publication Angels on the calendar page

Valley resident Jill Holen dons angel’s wings in the 2009 calendar created by the Angel Care Foundation, a non-profit group that supports those dealing with breast cancer. The survivor calendar celebrates life, the foundation’s director said. - Courtesy photo
Valley resident Jill Holen dons angel’s wings in the 2009 calendar created by the Angel Care Foundation, a non-profit group that supports those dealing with breast cancer. The survivor calendar celebrates life, the foundation’s director said.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

When Jill Holen was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, she immediately expected the worst.

She’d never known anyone who had breast cancer, so in her mind it was a complete and terrifying unknown.

“I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die,’” Holen said.

When caught early, though, breast cancer is very treatable and survivable.

Holen underwent two lumpectomies in one breast, followed by a regimen of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. When her treatment concluded in May of 2002, Holen was free of the cancer.

In the midst of her experience, Holen happened upon a pamphlet for the Angel Care Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers emotional support to those stricken with breast cancer.

Angle Care was founded in 1997 by Jan Harris, a breast cancer survivor herself, and provides support through a number of volunteers in Washington and Idaho.

Remembering just how frightening her experience had been, how isolated and in the dark she had felt, Holen wanted to reach out to others and provide them with support and inspiration.

“It’s a very scary journey by yourself,” Holen said.

As an Angel Care volunteer, Holen, and others like her, make personal connections with breast cancer patients, providing encouragement, suggestions and emotional support.

Holen expected to be doing all of that as an Angel Care volunteer. What she didn’t expect was that one day she would have the nerve to pose for a revealing shot in a charity calendar.

Since 2003, the Angel Care Foundation has published a calendar featuring breast cancer survivors and Angel Care volunteers in revealing but tasteful shots.

“It’s a celebration of life after breast cancer,” said Cindy McWilliams, director of the Angel Care Foundation.

As the foundation’s biggest fundraiser, the calendar is also an important source of revenue for Angle Care, and one more way to get noticed.

“It’s been well received,” McWilliams said. “It helps us get the word out.”

For Holen personally, being featured in the calendar has been another way of proving to herself that she can do things she would have once thought impossible.

Surviving breast cancer was a huge mountain for her to climb, as was a bout with uterine cancer in 2004, and now Holen looks for other barriers to pass, other challenges to overcome.

“It was a huge step for me,” Holen said about posing for the calendar.

The step was apparently an agreeable one, as 2009 will mark Holen’s third straight appearance in the calendar.

“I really enjoy it and it’s a great cause,” Holen said.

She hopes that even that small gesture and devil-may-care attitude also sends a message of support to those with cancer.

“We do things that are kind of scary for us, too,” Holen said about the Angel Care volunteers. “It makes you realize that you can do more than you think you can.”

For more information on the Angel Care Foundation or to order a calendar, visit www.angelcarefoundation.org.

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