Cancer survivor brings message of hope to rally


June 08, 2000|By Lorraine Gingerich | Lorraine Gingerich,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LESLIE TOPUS of Clarksville was the keynote speaker at the opening ceremonies for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life held last Friday and Saturday at Howard Community College. And she knows what she is talking about.

Topus is not only a cancer survivor, she is a cancer patient again.

Topus discovered she had breast cancer after a routine mammogram in February.

"I always gave myself a breast test, and I would never have detected it," she said. "My suggestion is, if women are suspicious at all, they need to ask for, not only a mammogram, but a sonogram. It will always show up on a sonogram."

Topus has had to take a leave of absence from her job as a social studies teacher at River Hill High School. She spends her time taking chemotherapy treatments, resting and gardening.

Topus dedicated her speech to Dr. Alvin Meckler, Emily Shutz, Casey Willis, Eugene Feinstein and her mother, Marion Ruth Baruch Shafran, who lost her battle with pancreatic cancer in January, just two weeks before Topus was diagnosed with her second cancer.

She talked about her other cancer treatment seven years ago and how she and her family managed to find humor in the unpleasantness of the situation. After her speech, Topus and other survivors walked once around the track in the Survivors' Walk.

"I walked that walk and I cried," Topus said.

Team members from each of the 72 teams joined in after the Survivors' Walk. Each team must keep one member walking at all times through the event, which was held from 6:15 p.m. Friday until noon Saturday. Topus is the event's loudest cheerleader.

"Once you come, you always come back," she said.

Topus is the teacher-coordinator for the River Hill Hawks' SHOP (Students Helping Other People), a club dedicated to community service. SHOP members participated as two teams. The teams raised funds by selling luminarias, getting sponsors and selling raffle tickets for a Volkswagen Beetle.

Junior Darby Munshowerof Ellicott City was captain of the SHOP team. "As a team captain, not only is it such a rewarding experience to know we're helping everybody who has cancer and who has been affected by cancer, it is also great to know that we can help people like Mrs. Topus," he said.

Participants brought sleeping bags, tents, lawn chairs, blankets and other gear they needed to make it through the night. Teams set up inside and outside of the track. A band played as people walked around the track and visited with friends on other teams.

Every team had a theme, and prizes were awarded for "most spirited team" and "best decorated site." Dinner and breakfast were available for participants.

On Saturday, Relay for Life featured children's activities: pony rides, games, face painting, an appearance by the Orioles bird and demonstrations in dance and gymnastics.

As Topus was greeted by well-wishers during the evening, fellow teacher Anne Contneyof Glenwood worried about her friend's well-being, fearing she would tire too easily.

Topus credits her friends and her family for their support during her cancer treatments. Her father, brother Sid and his wife, Sharon, sister Linda and her three children - Sarah, Ben and Hannah - all attended the event with her.

For Topus, it helps to have a good attitude. "My kids take their cues from me," she said. "If I'm unhappy and I'm sad, then they will be too," she said, then added, "and I can't allow that."

"I'm going to be a person who is living with cancer, not a person dying of cancer. And I'm going to encourage everybody else to do the same thing. Nobody knows how many days we have here."

Ice cream social

The Howard County Conservancy held an ice cream social for members, friends and volunteers to thank everyone for their help this year. Guests lapped up ice cream topped with fresh strawberries and sipped ice-cold lemonade.

Visitors strolled around the grounds to view the gardens, an open classroom and a blacksmith shop. Howard County Master Gardeners sponsored a children's craft: bookmarks with dried flowers and leaves. Antique cars and antique farm equipment were on display.

Green Scouts

Have you noticed how wonderful the Lisbon Elementary School sign looks? Thanks to Cub Scout Pack 827 for their hard work. They planted the flowers May 17 - in the rain! Their green thumbs will produce some beautiful flowers all summer long. Participating were Cub Master John Bossealong with Cubs Charlie Bosse, Robbie Mullinix, Jeff Smith and Chris Snouffer.

Lacrosse competition

Twenty young lacrosse-loving girls from Western Howard County joined together during the past two weeks to form an all-star team that tested the best girls' teams - with members aged 8, 9 and 10 - from a five-state area.

Kathy Black, who coaches girls in the HCLP recreation program, organized these players to compete in the LAX Splash 2000 Tournament in Baltimore County. More than 4,000 players competed, and the girls from the "West" came out on top: six victories in six games in three days!

Defense for the Tornados made the difference, as they held their opponents to the fewest goals scored during the three-day competition.

Trophies, photo shoots and ecstatic parents came together at a post-game ceremony for the champs. Participating were Megan Tart, Brittany Gaw, Alayna Markwordt, Jenny Michael, Katie Biggs, Kyle Evans, Kristy Black, CodeeBuckler, Julianne Nicola, Kristen Keravich, Maddie Lynch, Meghan Starinsky, Amberly German, Tracy Richert, Kate Goodwin, Allyssa Felix, Colleen Brookfield, Maddie Cummings, Kate Selfridge, Diana Apel, Kelsey Tyssowski, Michele Long and Jenna Conway.

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