Survivor’s advice: Stay positive, remember everything happens for special reasons

Diane Van Loan, left, helps prepare the Survivors’ Dinner at the North Shelby Relay for Life this past May.

When Diane and Bob Van Loan moved to Helena from Dallas three years ago, they envisioned a less stressful, laid-back small town life.

In February 2008, a routine mammogram at Shelby Baptist Hospital showed a small 1 centimeter tumor in Diane’s right breast.

Van Loan sought a second opinion at UAB and her trio of “very excellent doctors” performed a biopsy, then a mastectomy followed by four chemotherapy treatments over three months.

“It took me about a year to return to feeling like myself, and I came to realize I have so much I want to accomplish.

It was an eye-opener; a reminder that I might not have forever.

Now I have a completely different perspective,” she said.

Van Loan joined the monthly support group called New Beginnings and became a member of the Angel Squad at Kirkland Clinic, where she now volunteers in the diagnostic mammography center.

“New Beginnings is a monthly luncheon group that I recommend every cancer survivor take advantage of. Each person has the opportunity to share their fears and their experience with one another,” she said.

Van Loan attended her first Relay for Life in 2008, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and enrolled at Southern Institute of Interior Design at Virginia College.

She dreams of creating and building her own bed and breakfast right here in Helena using her design skills and the model of tourist hospitality she knows from her hometown of Ocean Springs, Miss.

Bob Van Loan is the 2011 chairman for North Shelby Relay for Life held at the Pelham High School football field.

Diane participated in the 2010 race on the Buck Creek Civitan Team, walked the survivor lap and was the sole representative for her team during the hours between midnight and 6 a.m.

“Kylee Patrick with the American Cancer Society oversees five relay events in the Birmingham area.

She inspired me with her passion. I want to make a difference because you never know whose life will be affected.”

Next year, Diane will head the Committee for Survivorship and said, “We want to encourage every survivor to speak their story and be acknowledged. It is their inspiration that helps us raise money for research and continue to fight.”

Diane’s father died of prostate cancer in 1988 and Bob’s daughter, Jamie Alexander, has recovered from a brain tumor diagnosed when she was in her late 20s.

“My advice,” said Van Loan, “is to stay positive and realize that everything happens for a reason.”

For more info visit Facebook.com/home.php#%21/pages/Relay-For-Life-of-North-Shelby/161055310575973.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at labro16@yahoo.com.