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Judy Pfister, who uses services provided by Cancer LifeNet at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health's Kaufman Cancer Center, and her husband, Jake Pfister, help celebrate and prepare for the Sixth Annual Amanda Hichkad CCA Celebration Walk on May 18.
Judy Pfister, who uses services provided by Cancer LifeNet at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health's Kaufman Cancer Center, and her husband, Jake Pfister, help celebrate and prepare for the Sixth Annual Amanda Hichkad CCA Celebration Walk on May 18. (Courtesy Upper Chesapeake Health / Baltimore Sun)

Yomaris Rivera was more than 1,000 miles away from home when, at age of 39, she received her cancer diagnosis.

A native of Puerto Rico, she is a member of the Puerto Rico National Guard and was working as a career counselor at Aberdeen Proving Ground when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2018.

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Over the past year, Rivera has undergone chemotherapy, surgery and 28 rounds of radiation at the Kaufman Cancer Center at University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health.

At her first appointment at the Kaufman Cancer Center, she was introduced to Cancer LifeNet, a free nurse navigation and supportive care program offered to cancer patients and their loved ones, regardless of where they receive cancer treatment. Rivera met her nurse navigator and social worker, who helped her every step of the way from diagnosis through treatment.

"Just to have them a phone call away is a blessing," Rivera said. "When you go through cancer, you feel lost. Cancer LifeNet guides me. When you are going through this journey, they are there every step of the way."

Rivera participated in several free classes offered by Cancer LifeNet, including acupuncture, which helped her relieve the side effects of chemotherapy, and a makeup class, because, she explained, as you go through chemo, your skin changes.

"They think of everything," Rivera said.

To give back in support of Cancer LifeNet, Rivera has formed Team Yomaris to participate in the Sixth annual Amanda Hichkad CCA Celebration Walk Saturday, May 18, at 8 a.m. at The John Carroll School, 703 E. Churchville Road in Bel Air.

The one-mile Hichkad CCA Celebration Walk raises funds for Cancer LifeNet, which is funded solely by philanthropic support. The program provides nurse navigators, volunteer navigators, oncology social workers, support groups and specialized classes including tai chi, yoga, healthy cooking and group programs for children who have a parent or loved one with cancer.

Since the walk’s inception in 2014, more than $600,000 has been raised by friends and neighbors helping friends and neighbors in support of Cancer LifeNet. This year the goals are to raise $100,000 and to attract 1,000 walkers.

The cost to register is $25 per person; children 12 and under are free. Commemorative T-shirts will be awarded to those who raise $50 or more. Registration takes place online at uchfoundation.org and the morning of the walk. Donations may also be made online at uchfoundation.org. Day-of registration opens at 7:30 a.m., with the ceremonial program and walk beginning at 8 a.m.

The walk is organized by The Upper Chesapeake Health Foundation and its Chesapeake Cancer Alliance volunteers. It is named after the late Amanda Hichkad, a Bel Air wife, mother of three boys and volunteer.

This annual event brings the community together to honor, celebrate and remember loved ones, friends and neighbors in the fight against cancer.

Continuing her fight against cancer is Forest Hill resident Judy Pfister, 74. After a battle with breast cancer in 1998, she was diagnosed in 2014 with metastasized breast cancer in her left lung. She underwent chemotherapy at the Kaufman Cancer Center and became familiar with Cancer LifeNet.

She received a calendar outlining Cancer LifeNet activities. She took acupuncture, yoga, exercise and reiki classes. She joined a breast cancer support group and also took classes on mindfulness and "thriving and surviving."

"Cancer LifeNet gave me the physical, psychological and social support to fight this diagnosis with grace, confidence and reassurance to live each day at its very best," Pfister said. "I've met a tremendous number of wonderful people — the doctors, nurses, social workers, staff, instructors and they are all outstanding. They listen, and they understand."

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"Cancer LifeNet has taught me the connection of the mind, body and spirit. I learned to self-manage my emotions and symptoms, with the support and help of LifeNet," Pfister said.

Continuing her treatment, Pfister will receive 30 rounds of Proton therapy radiation starting this spring. The therapy looks promising, and she is very hopeful.

Pfister has organized a team for the Hichkad CCA Celebration Walk, called the Tumor-nators. She is participating in this year's walk as a way to thank Cancer LifeNet for the help and support she has received over the years.

For more information about the Sixth Annual Amanda Hichkad CCA Celebration Walk, visit uchfoundation.org, email ufoundation@uchs.org or call 443-643-3460. For more information about Cancer LifeNet, visit umuch.org/cancer or call 866-393-4355.

Yomaris Rivera, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and underwent treatment at the Kaufman Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, was the keynote speaker at the Women In Defense Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon in October 2018.
Yomaris Rivera, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and underwent treatment at the Kaufman Cancer Center at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, was the keynote speaker at the Women In Defense Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon in October 2018. (Courtesy Upper Chesapeake Health / Baltimore Sun)
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