Pueblo County, Colorado
Contributed by Jean, Gracie, Phyllis and Karen.
Colorado Springs Gazette 9-4-2006 - A Fighter To The End - Pueblo Woman Put Battle With Cancer Into Words - "Hi, I'm Deanna Jara and I'm honored to be the 2006 honorary survivor for Pueblo County. I was born and raised in Pueblo. I have been married for 27 years to a great man who is always by my side! I have two great sons, 28 and 19, and a beautiful granddaughter (Destiny) who is 10." Deanna Jara starts her story as a breast-cancer survivor with those words, written early this year. Each year, the Komen Race for the Cure names honorary survivors from El Paso, Teller and Pueblo counties. It's a way to put faces to the cause, for women to share their stories and offer a message of hope. And there's cause for hope. Breast-cancer death rates are going down, falling about 2.3 percent each year since 1990. But breast cancer remains the most common cancer in women after skin cancer. And it remains a killer: Nearly 41,000 women will die of breast cancer this year in the U.S. Jara, who had hoped to be among the survivors' sea of pink at Sunday's Race for the Cure, died July 23. She's gone, but her story can still be told. "My journey with breast cancer began in February 2000. I noticed a lump, called the doctor and went for a mammogram. A few days later, I went to see a breast surgeon. A needle biopsy was done. The results confirmed it was breast cancer." Jara was 38 when she was diagnosed. She underwent a radical mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy, 30 days of radiation and another round of chemotherapy. "She was a fighter," said her mother, Mary Torres. And she armed herself with knowledge, researching her cancer online, asking questions of her doctor, talking to breast-cancer survivors. "She learned so much about what she was going through and what her body was going to be dealing with," said her sister-in-law, Desiree Jara. "She knew it all." Deanna and Desiree were friends even before family ties brought them together. "Deanna and I grew up together. We went to grade school together. And then it just so happened we became sister-in-laws in later years." Desiree remembers Deanna as always positive, always uplifting. "She was just full of life. She had a great laugh, and everyone would tell you that her laughter would make you laugh." Through her treatments, she continued to work in her job as a teller supervisor at Power Credit Union. "She would never stay home and rest in bed," said another sister-in-law, Marci Gonzales. "She was always getting up and going somewhere." "In 2002, I started having really bad back pain. I went to my primary doctor; they said it was a spasm and gave me muscle relaxants. They did not help. I went in for a bone scan and the results were negative. It was then time to see my oncologist; I told him about the back pain and gave him the bone scan results. He ordered an MRI and the results confirmed my cancer was back! This time, it had metastasized to my bones." Once doctors learned the cancer had spread to her bones, Deanna Jara was put on continual rounds of chemotherapy. There was no cure; the hope simply was to give Deanna as much time as possible, said Judy Musso, a friend who was a Race for the Cure honorary survivor in 2003. This time, Deanna had to cut back her hours at the credit union. Though she had used up her sick time, co-workers donated about 500 hours of sick time and vacation time. In October 2003, she took a leave of absence. She hoped to be back in a few months, but ended up taking medical retirement. It was tough on her. "She was really committed to her job, just like she was committed to her family," said Stephanie Cordova, a friend since junior high school. After she left the credit union, she began volunteering her time with the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, helping with fund-raisers and other activities, Musso said. Deanna wasn't the type to stew in self-pity, Musso said. Though fighting for her own survival, she wanted to help others. "As she told me, she had done all the crying she had wanted to do," Musso said. "I have met so many wonderful people during my journey. I attend a couple of support groups, where I have met many wonderful ladies. This is how I got to know about the Komen Race for the Cure. I went to see the race in 2004 as a team member for Pueblo Survivors and Friends. Wow! It was wonderful to see so many people all dressed in pink, walking and running to support the race." Deanna Jara was at the race again in 2005. Not long after, she was asked to be this year's honorary survivor for Pueblo County. It was known that her cancer was terminal, "but when we asked her, she was doing pretty darned good," Musso said. In early June, Deanna Jara went to Washington, D.C., for the National Race for the Cure. Cordova and Desiree Jara went with her. Deanna had always dreamed of seeing New York, so Desiree arranged a quick side trip by bus to the Big Apple. "She just thought it was the greatest thing," Desiree said. "She couldn't believe she was there." From the start, Deanna had been worried most about her sons, Robert Jr. and Jacob, and had prayed she would live long enough to see them both grow up. In D.C., Desiree said, "She told me, 'God granted me that wish, because my boys are grown now and they're men.'" Cordova said Deanna clearly was in pain during her time in D.C. "You could see it in her face, but she never would say anything." Upon returning home, her decline was rapid. She was constantly in pain and walking was a struggle. "I told her, you need to be in the hospital where they can watch you better," her mother said. "But she didn't want to go." Finally, though, she was admitted to the hospital. Musso saw her the day before she died. Deanna had been put in a hospice room. "I told her what a calm room it was, and she said, 'This is a hospice room and I don't want to be in it. I don't want to die here.' Real feisty, you know?" When she began having problems breathing, Deanna was transferred to intensive care. Gonzales was there in her final minutes. There was a reading from the Bible, a prayer. "Deanna wasn't talking at all, and then she opened her mouth and the last thing she said was 'Amen.'" She died moments later. "In 2005, I was at the race again, learning more about Komen. I will be at the race this year, if God permits, as honorary survivor representing Pueblo County. I will continue to spread the word and raise money for Komen."
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