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East County Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 1 year ago

Bradenton couple raises funds for Breast Cancer Research Foundation

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Greenfield Plantation cancer survivor hopes to raise awareness.
by: Jay Heater Managing Editor

Julie Veith would sit in the treatment room of Florida Cancer Specialists and listen for the sound she wanted to make her own.

It was a bell.

Each time a patient would finish his or her cancer treatments, they would ring a little bell as they left the room. Only Veith would still be sick. She would still be tired. Her family would still be suffering with her. And she knew she had to come back for more.

Veith counted each time she heard that bell ring for someone else.

Sixteen times.

Then it was her time. It was something which might seem silly to the rest of the world. Not to Veith.

She rang that darned bell.

"It was cool," she said, choking up with emotion at her home in Greenfield Plantation.

Veith, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of 2014, is now 46 and she is listed in the "no evidence of disease" category, which was adopted by cancer specialists so their patients didn't get too hopeful they were cured. With cancer, the possibility of a relapse is very real. While breast cancer survivors such as Veith remain hopeful, the worry never quite is erased in the back of the mind.

Besides that lingering dread, Veith has to worry about the effects of her four-year battle. She has been left with lymphedema, a condition where her arm becomes swollen as a result of damage to her body's lymphatic system, or in this case as a result of the removal of lymph nodes in her right arm. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels that collect excess fluid.

Without that system, fluids build up, and sometimes can create a serious condition.

"People don't realize," Veith said. "They think the treatments are over, and life is back to normal. Before there was nothing to ever stop me. Now ... the swelling always is going to be there. There is no cure for it."

Sitting alongside her, her husband Bryan picked up the conversation when he saw Julie was struggling.

"I thought I knew what you go through with cancer, what it's like," he said. "But I didn't. Now I have lived it firsthand. Now I know.

"I saw what she went through and I thought, that could be our daughter (14-year-old Marissa).  I saw the emotional and physical scars not everyone is aware of."

Four years after Julie's diagnosis, and both Julie and Bryan were choking up as they tried to squeeze out words.

After those four years, Bryan talked to Julie about doing something to help research efforts that might eventually prevent such an experience as she endured. Talking to many cancer organizations, Bryan settled on the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

A civil engineer for the firm Brown and Caldwell, Bryan had run benefit golf tournaments in the past and he thought that would be a good way to raise money. The Play for Pink Fundraising Golf Tournament makes its debut Oct. 19 at the Heritage Harbour Golf & Eatery.

"I have done golf tournaments, but never one of this magnitude," he said. "I wanted to think outside the box."

The golf tournament sold out (capacity of 128 players) two months before the event. More than 30 players are on a waiting list.

With so many benefit golf tournaments in the area, why was this one so successful?

"It's his passion," Julie said of her husband. "He has reached out to every single sole and beyond."

Bryan said it wasn't hard because so many people have been touched by cancer. They can relate to Julie's story.

Besides the golf tournament, Bryan also organized a Dinner and Comedy Show at the Heritage Harbour Golf & Eatery the night before the tournament so non-golfers could participate in the event.

It became quite obvious the Veiths are well-liked in the community.

Julie's integrity stood out as Bryan was pushing tickets to golf and the comedy show. He said the first thing she said after getting her diagnosis was she was worried she wouldn't be there for their children, Marissa and Logan, who now is 15.

Julie Veith, middle, said she let her son, Logan, and daughter, Marissa, give her a "rock star" haircut during her cancer treatments.

Then it simply became what to do next?

"We found out on a Tuesday," Bryan said. "And we had a meeting with a surgeon on Thursday."

The Veiths talked to doctors about MRIs, CAT scans, mastectomy and plastic surgery.

"It was overwhelming and scary," Bryan said.

Meanwhile, their friends at Christ Presbyterian Church in East County were doing anything they could to help the couple, who have been married 17 years. Julie said the help, such as meals and rides to appointments, was invaluable and never will be forgotten.

"I was worried about her when she was going through chemo," Bryan said. "She was spending 20 hours a day in bed. I wondered if she was depressed, or sad.

He eventually learned she was just sick. The chemotherapy was helping, and at the same time crushing her body.

Meanwhile, Logan and Marissa were worried. They lived the process as well.

"You can't pretend it's OK," Julie said. "We talked to them, we talked to their teachers.

"Marissa would ask, 'Are you going to be OK?' I would say, 'We're doing everything we can. You know how stubborn I can be.'"

Logan was just as worried so Julie decided to let her children be involved. She was going to lose her hair anyway, so she asked them to cut it. They spent an evening cutting her hair into "rock star" styles, and eventually had them shave her hair. She said it was preferable to watching her hair fall out clump by clump.

It was a light moment in a struggle. She admits she looked at healthy people when she was outside the house and wondered, "Why me?"

One of the things that stands out most for her was one of her 11 trips for chemo. She had heard that bell ring, and it wasn't yet her time. This time, though, she felt she just couldn't do any more.

Dr. Richard Buck of Florida Cancer Specialists wasn't having it. He told her all the numbers had been good. The treatment was working.

He told her in a firm, but caring, voice. "You've got to do it."

She went into the treatment room. The bell would be ringing.

 

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