Marti Lee Verschelden is a lifelong Newton resident, retired after a career in banking. She is a volunteer. And she is a three-time cancer survivor.
Her volunteerism is with Victory in the Valley, a group that supports cancer patients and survivors.
"I don't want (cancer) to define me," Verschelden said.
She is helping plan Fun and Fashion for Victory, a fundraiser for Victory in the Valley, at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Meridian Center, 1420 E. Broadway.
She hopes there will be a crowd of 250 or more. Organizers have not set a financial goal for the $25 per ticket event.
In March 2010 a mammogram found breast cancer on her left side. She had the tumor removed and followed with 37 radiation therapy treatments. In March 2017, a mammogram found breast cancer on her right side. While preparing for surgery on her right side, colon cancer was found during a colonoscopy. She says none of the three cancers were related.
But that still meant a little more looking around.
"Because I had three unrelated cancers in 10 years, they did genetic testing," Verschelden said. "They found I was predisposed to ovarian cancer. I had eight hours of surgery. They removed the cancerous tumor in the right breast, they did a colon resection and a complete hysterectomy. I did six months of chemo treatments. In March of 2018, after all of that, I had a double mastectomy."
Her scans have been clear ever since.
"I was one of the lucky ones. Every one of them, they got to them when they were small and before they were terminal," Verschelden said.
She said she is a testament to the value of early detection and that, while her scans are clear and it appears treatment was successful, she will continue with regular testing for the rest of her life.
Verschelden knew about Victory in the Valley through her social circles — a member of the Red Hat Ladies Club that contains some of the founders of the organization.
Victory in the Valley supports cancer patients during treatment, regardless of cancer type or gender. Funds raised Oct. 15 will be used to support patients at Newton cancer centers.
That support can take the form of gift cards for groceries and gas during treatment, head coverings or wigs, and a bag provided to new patients which includes a lap quilt stitched by volunteers, a neck pillow, a "Victory Bear" and other comfort items.
"Victory in the Valley has a group that meets at Shalom Mennonite Church the last Thursday of every month," Verschelden said. "We spend a couple hours socializing and talking. If someone has an issue, there is someone else in that group who has the same issue. There is usually 20 people there."
Fun and Fashion for Victory will include a meal and a fashion show featuring cancer survivors wearing outfits from local clothing stores. There will also be a silent auction during the evening. Tickets are available at Main Street Company and Moyo's in downtown Newton. For more information, call 316-283-3828.