Supporting their colleague Katherine Laster (seated) in her battle against breast cancer are Fiscal Affairs staff members (standing from left) Ashley Freeman, Regina Jennings, Emma Wingfield, Adrey Lane and Marion Ryant. Not pictured is Tiffany Davis.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is also a time to recognize all cancer survivors and individuals who have lost loved ones to breast cancer, a disease that strikes one out of eight women.
On Thursday, staff members in the Office of Fiscal Affairs honored one of their own by wearing pink in support of Katherine Laster, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July.
“Wearing pink is the least we can do for Ms. Laster and her victory over breast cancer,” said Ashley Freeman, budget assistant in Fiscal Affairs. “We are all like a family, and we really care about each other. We just want her to know that we are here for her and care about her, so this was just a small gesture of love.”
It was a gesture that caught Laster by surprise.
“I came in [Thursday] morning, saw everyone wearing pink and said, ‘No one sent me the memo,’” she said. “Then they told me it was because they were doing it in support of me, so that outpouring of love definitely felt special. I felt appreciated and loved knowing that my co-workers are behind me and supporting me.”
The unified act of generosity came a day after one of Laster’s chemotherapy sessions – a day in which for many is quite difficult.
“The treatments, thank God, go beautifully,” Laster commented. “I have family, friends and co-workers who come sit and talk with me so the time goes by quickly. My co-workers call me and let me know that they are praying for me and that gives you all the hope you need to go on. You realize you are not in this alone because of all the love and support, and that makes it so much easier.”
Colleague Emma Wingfield has secondhand experience on what a cancer battle is like.
“I have a sister who is a two-year breast cancer survivor, so I have tried to encourage and support [Laster] in the same way I did for her.”
For others it is just about coming together.
“I have given out pink ribbons to co-workers the past five years, but this year it was special,” said Marion Ryant. “We all share in her experience and have adopted the motto, ‘You hurt, I hurt.’ I shared with Katherine that even the big ‘C’ is no match for her because she belongs to an even bigger ‘C’ in Christ.”
Laster, who serves as assistant controller and assistant to the vice president of Fiscal Affairs for Albany State, said a person never realizes the seriousness of something until it hits home. Bringing awareness has now become a passion of hers.
“I think it is so important that we do not take [cancer] as something private,” she said. “People cannot express love and support if they do not know. No one has to go through this alone because so many women are affected by this each year. If I can, through my story, help just one other female get through this, then I know my living is not in vain.”
While some questions remain, Laster said her bout with cancer has strengthened her personal relationship with the Lord. She boldly stands on the scripture Isaiah 53: 4-5, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.”
“This is a test and, at the end, I will have a testimony to share with so many others and bring hope and healing,” she said.
Laster is currently cancer-free but must finish out the treatment process. From beginning to end, her co-workers are determined to be her “towers of strength.”
“I am elated to be a part of a group that is so supportive,” Adrey Lane said. “We have all tried to pull together and lift her up in prayer during a time in which she needs it most.”
After receiving a newfound awareness on life, Laster implores everyone to get checked regularly because early detection is the key.
“Life is so precious, and we only have this one life to live, so why not take care of yourself and value your health,” she added.