Komen for the Cure

Cancer fight, Komen support sustain Raleigh woman

Diane Kerkhoff, two-time cancer survivor, faces a third bout with the disease, but she is determined not to let a third strike get her down.

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Randy Mews

Diane Kerkhoff, two-time cancer survivor, faces a third bout with the disease, but she is determined not to let a third strike get her down.

"My thought process was, better me than somebody else for the first time," Kerkhoff said.

"At least this time around I felt I had all this knowledge and all this power. And knowledge is power. So I felt that I had all the resources available to me in this wonderful community that we live in, and all the medical care that’s here, that I was going to beat this." 

Kerkhoff’s outlook is fueled in part by her long term-association with Susan G. Komen. She reached out to the national office when she developed breast cancer for the first time, and it just so happened that the Triangle was starting to organize their first race under the leadership of founding chair Jeannie Peck.

"Back in 1995, the Triangle affiliate was completely volunteer. There was no paid staff. Everything had to be done by volunteers. So if there was a need, you filled it," she said.

And Kerkhoff did.

"We couldn’t do it if it wasn’t for people like Diane," said Komen engagement manager Deyna Hardison.

"Everything from handing out water, being a monthly sustainer, providing funding, even stuffing envelopes. What we’re looking to do is provide programs, education, services, awareness to thousands of people in a 29-county service area. It’s very important."

Kerkhoff has worn many hats as a Komen volunteer, eventually serving as co-chair of the Race for the Cure in 2001 and 2002. She has forged many friendships along the way, including a special bond with her fellow breast cancer survivors.

"Without Komen, I don’t think I would be able to get through this at all," she said.

"Some of us have had reconstruction, some of us not, many of us have gone through radiation, through chemotherapy, and walked side by side for the last 20 years. I have helped them and they have helped me immensely."

Hardison said the bond between cancer survivors moves many to help out where they can.

"When I meet a breast cancer survivor and they say what you said made sense, it made a difference. And that’s all any of us want to do is make a difference," Kerkhoff said.

"My personal message to everyone out there is that the most important tool is at the end of your arm: breast self-exam, mammogram, yearly physical."

Although she’s fighting for her life, Kerkhoff’s support for Komen’s Triangle affiliate is unwavering. She recently became involved with the monthly sustainer program, which is designed to infuse a monthly flow of cash into the organization.

"This affiliate has supported me over the last 20 years during my breast cancer journey. As a survivor, I thought it was really important to give back," she said. "They support all these wonderful programs in our 29 counties, so I decided it was time to support these programs throughout the year, more than just the Komen Race for the Cure."

That year-round support helps get resources out into the community where they are needed, Hardison said.

"We raise a million dollars or more during our Race for the Cure, but it’s not enough. We need more so I can make sure that I can go into North Hampton Courty and get education and resources to those people who need it the most there."

Kerkhoff practices yoga to deal with the medical demands of fighting cancer. She wonders, and sometimes she worries. But those feelings always give way to her strong spirit and determined outlook.

"The first time I found out I felt very frightened because I was only 41. I didn’t know anything about breast cancer," she said.

"The second time was a totally different type of cancer. And now with the third one, again, I have so much knowledge and so many resources in this area, that I’m not afraid. I know I’m going to beat this. I’m going to beat this."

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