Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cover Story

For those of you out-of-towners who are wanting to read the article, here it is:

Honor fortifies survivor’s healing

Krista Schinagl/The Herald (I want to add that our photographer, Krista, is an acquaintance from church and we had a blast walking, feeding animals, getting to chit chat and take pictures.  Thank you, Krista!)

Casondra Clement of Jasper took a break from walking on the Jasper Riverwalk with her daughter Breanna, 3, and friend Glenda McLean of Lake Helmerich Village on Wednesday to put out feed for squirrels and deer. Clement, who is a cancer survivor, was chosen to participate in the opening and closing ceremonies for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk next month in Atlanta. She will also lead a team in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer on the Riverwalk on Oct. 15.


Herald Staff Writer

JASPER — In one month, Jasper resident Casondra Clement will make her way into Survivor Circle at the Atlanta Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk carrying a pink flag inscribed with the word “healing.”

Clement, 29 and a three-time breast cancer survivor, was nominated and selected out of thousands of walkers by the event’s field coordinator to march with the inspirational flags and lead the opening and closing ceremonies of the walk, Oct. 21 to 23. Only eight survivors were selected for the job.

Clement and her seven fellow survivors will hold the flags as they stand on a raised podium in front of a crowd of former breast cancer patients and their families, representing those who have won and lost in their battles against the disease.

When Clement read the email from the event coordinator telling her she had been selected to carry a flag, she broke down and cried.

“It’s one of the biggest honors of walking,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a big step in my healing process.”

Clement will travel to Atlanta a day early to meet with the walk organizers and learn the ceremony routine. Once the walk starts, she will join her own team, Team Twitter Atlanta, named to honor that she and her teammates met and bonded using the popular social networking site.

Clement has been battling breast cancer since January 2003, when she had her first lump removed. The disease reappeared in 2005, and then again in July 2010 when her oncologist recommended she have a double mastectomy. After losing her aunt Stephanie Heichelbech to the disease, Clement said she knew it was the best decision for her future health.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Clement’s mastectomy surgery. Since then, the Winslow native has been free of cancer, but not free of pain.

Clement has undergone reconstruction surgery to insert breast implants and will have a fat graft just a few days after returning from her three-day walk. The mother of four has had to find time to heal while raising her children — stepson Aidan, 9, Kinsey, 8, Ava, 6, and Breanna, 3 — with her husband, Chris.

“It was so stressful, because they were in school and they’re little, so the littlest one didn’t understand that (she) can’t climb on mommy,” Clement said.

However, Clement did not let the post-surgery pain keep her down. She was determined to keep her children’s lives as normal as possible, so she discarded her pain pump early after her mastectomy and subsequent blood transfusions to go home with her family.

Then, Clement set a goal for herself: to complete a 60-mile walk for the cure one year after her mastectomy. To qualify for the walk, each participant is required to raise $2,300, which Clement quickly accumulated using Facebook to ask for donations from friends and family. Within 72 hours of posting her request, Clement had raised $1,800.

“I started training in April. They have a 16- to 24-week course that you follow, and that gets you ready,” she explained. “My goal that if I can walk 60 miles, that is my body being strong enough that I’ve overcome everything from this past year.”

Before heading to Atlanta, Clement will walk in the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at the Jasper Riverwalk on Oct. 15. She will serve as a captain to her team of 22 walkers, and she already has raised $500 for the cancer organization by holding a community cornhole competition.

Clement spoke at a meeting of Jasper walkers last month about the importance of performing self-exams. She said she found each of her cancerous lumps herself, not through a mammogram.

When she isn’t walking to cure cancer, Clement keeps herself busy volunteering at her children’s schools. In August, she volunteered at an Evansville radiothon for Riley Hospital for Children, taking donations over the phone in honor of her youngest daughter.

Breanna was born with a congenital heart defect that required an extensive open-heart surgery when she was only 2 weeks old. She will need to have further corrective surgeries.

Clement said she makes it through all of the health obstacles in her life with the help of her family — including parents Eddie and Roxanne Richardson and Jeanette and Chris Walls — and with the power of prayer. She is a faithful member of Christian Church of Jasper.

“Faith is big. With this whole process, that’s been the biggest thing. My dad always told me growing up, ‘If you have a problem that you can’t take to the Lord, then it’s not a problem that you need to worry about,’” she said. “He gives us these challenges in life, but he gives us the grace to walk through them and make something beautiful out of them.

“I’ve always said, ‘He is giving me this for a reason,’ and I truly believe that this (fundraising) is it.”

Contact Claire Moorman at

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