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2010 Calendar

2010 Calendar

Welcome Friends of Sisters’ Journey!

Thank you for your ongoing and unwavering support for the endeavors of Sisters’ Journey over these past 11 years. We have just experienced one of our busiest and most fulfilling years ever.

Our Survivors have been out visiting and sharing their stories and still hosting their monthly support group meetings. We have been out training and learning to become better advocates. It is very inspiring to witness women reaching out for support and giving support to each other.

We hosted our first Mother/Daughter Brunch, which was a great success for our organization! The highlight at the brunch was the presentation of Sisters’ Journey scholarships to four young women who aspire to become doctors.

With all the work that went into these new endeavors and accomplishments, our greatest hope is that our presence in the community has succeeded in communicating strong and inspiring messages:

  • Encouraging early detection by getting yearly mammograms.
  • Younger women need to be proactive by doing self breast exams.
  • Practice better eating habits and include an exercise regiment in hopes for prevention. • Find out your family health history, and share it!
  • Always be hopeful and encouraged.

This is our 11th calendar of breast cancer survivors. Since its inception, the purpose has been to empower, support, inspire, educate, advocate and share to build bridges for women as we help them through their journey with breast cancer. Our Mission continues!

Be Well!

Dawn White-Bracey
President

Survivor Stories

Cynthia Harrison, January View My Story »

Cynthia Harrison

My name is Cynthia S. Harrison and I am a native of New Haven, Connecticut. I am the proud mother of two beautiful daughters, Sybil & Monica, and God has blessed me with four awesome grandchildren: Jade, Coraz, Miara and Deja. I am a recent college graduate having obtained my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration in 2008. In addition, I have been a faithful disciple for the past 18 years of one of the most dynamic churches this side of heaven, Love Center Deliverance Ministry, located in Hamden, Connecticut, where the Pastors are the renowned Bishop Frankie & Dr. Kim Carmichael. Life was looking good and with all of that going for me one would think that cancer would not be part of my biography, but it just goes to show that cancer has no respect of persons.

My journey began in August 2008. I felt what I thought was a small lump in my right breast. I thought, “I must be imaging this, I better let my daughter Monica see if she feels what I think I feel.” So I asked Monica to feel the area in question and she responded, “Ma, there is nothing there.” Her assurance temporarily put my mind at ease but I continued to check the area and eventually the lump seemed to just disappear, or so I thought. A month later (September 20) while getting dressed to attend a friend’s wedding, I felt the lump again. This time it seemed bigger and there was no mistaking it. Frantically, I ran into Monica’s room telling her to feel the area again and when she did there was no mistaking the look of fear on her face, a look that mirrored the one I wore. She said, “Mom you better call Dr. Wagner (a friend and physician at my church) or Kelly (another friend, breast cancer survivor and founder/CEO of The CHAIN Fund) or a doctor or somebody!” I called the doctor to make an appointment. I did not want to tell my family or friends yet and get everyone all worked up when I had not yet been seen by the doctor.

My doctor’s appointment was scheduled for two weeks later and the hardest thing about waiting was trying not to think the worst. It was a constant battle. During this two-week period I told my Pastors and with their prayers and encouraging words I felt like I was ready and capable of enduring whatever was ahead. I also reminded myself that God was and still is a healer. On the day of my mammogram appointment, I went to the hospital early because I was anxious and nervous. The results of the mammogram were abnormal so the doctors performed an ultrasound followed by a biopsy. After the biopsy was completed I was given a breast cancer information package and told not to worry. I thought to myself, if they didn’t want me to worry they should have kept their package. The following week I went to my follow-up appointment. It was during this appointment that I heard the dreaded words, “I’m sorry Ms. Harrison, but you have breast cancer.” This was, by far, the worst news that anyone had delivered to me. My first thoughts were: this can’t be happening to me, I don’t want to die, and what about my children? Although I appeared calm on the outside, an emotional storm was brewing on the inside of me. I had very good days and I also had very bad days. However, when I came to the realization that I didn’t have to walk this journey alone, that my Savior was with me every step of the way and that my tongue (not that of the doctor) holds the power of life and death, my emotional storm settled and I adopted a positive attitude about my situation.

I was told that my treatments would include a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. In November, I had several appointments and tests to ensure that my body would be able to withstand the treatments. On December 8, I had a lumpectomy. My chemo treatment began a month later. I finished chemotherapy in April 2009. Chemotherapy has some very devastating side effects; it alters your physical appearance, robbing you of the very things that make us women feel beautiful – our weight, our hair, our nails, and our complexion. It tried to take away all the things that made me who I was. But it was a defeated foe because even with a bald-head, dark nails, hands and feet, and 20 lbs. lighter, I’m still a beautiful black woman!

My radiation treatments began on Wednesday, May 27. I had 35 treatments and they ended on July 16. Although my battle with cancer officially ended on July 16, I know that God pronounced the benediction on my ailment before I knew it even existed. I know that I am more than a conqueror and that the enemy tried to throw something evil at me but God caught it and turned it into something good. I received a certificate from the radiation center that states: I am free to continue to live my life to the fullest. And that is what I plan to do!

Yvonne Gomes, February View My Story »

Yvonne Gomes

I believe that having faith in God, self-awareness and early detection are the keys to surviving any illness.

I’m not sure if I saw something on TV or read something in a book, but for some reason I’ve always known to check my breasts. My story actually goes back to when I was about 10 years old and felt a lump in my left breast (chest then). I told my mother and she said I was growing. By the time I turned 14 I had to have a lumpectomy, which thank God turned out to be benign. I had other lumps in my breasts, so I continued to check them as did my doctors.

I was about 29 years old and was giving myself an exam when I noticed that one of my lumps felt a little different. So, I made an appointment for a mammogram. On the day of my appointment (at CHCP), some rude nurse (wish I had gotten her name) told me I was too young to get a mammogram appointment and that I needed a doctor’s referral. I tried to explain that I had a lump that had changed and needed to be checked. We went back and forth for awhile and then I left. I was so upset that I did not call my doctor for the referral.

About a year and a half later (January 1995), I noticed that my lump had changed and I also had a lump under my arm. At that point I knew in my heart that I had breast cancer. I made an appointment with my doctor, who referred me to a surgeon. I received my diagnosis on February 8th. I cried for about five minutes after the doctor said those words, “YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER!” Then all of a sudden I felt GOD wrap his arms around my body and GOD said to me, “YOU ARE GOING TO LIVE!”

At that point I stopped crying and started taking care of business. I had a full mastectomy and reconstruction surgery on February 28, 1995 and endured six months of chemo. I did not go through it alone; my children and my husband took great care of me; my daughter Alisha (12 years old at the time) and William (5 years old at the time) were and still are the best children anyone could ever pray for. I also received lots of support from my family and friends – the Gomes/ Ammons; the Pritchett’s/Walkers; William Barnes Jr. and family; the Caldwell/Draughns; the Atkins; the Fischer-Browns; the Willises; the

Jacksons; the Sewells; and of course all of my doctors. I had (and still have) such a huge support system that I hope I did not miss anyone. I also have to thank my newest supporter who helps me to stay on the right path of eating healthy and exercising. You all will always play a big part in my life.

As I sit here and write my biography, my dad is battling prostate cancer and my mom is battling breast cancer for the second time. Once this calendar is released in 2010, with the Grace of God, I pray that my parents will be alright and I will be a 15-year survivor.

I also would like to offer these words of wisdom to women everywhere: If you feel a lump or have any other health issues that are questionable… please follow through. DO NOT wait until it’s too late. Please, please, take action. It could mean your life! God Bless Us All!

(Note: Regrettably, Yvonne’s father lost his courageous battle with prostate cancer prior to our calendar going to press. He has now transitioned to his final resting place. May he rest in peace.)

Sheila Garlington, March View My Story »

Sheila Garlington

In the years leading up to February of 2000 I found myself in a place of spiritual, emotional, and physical weakness. Unbeknownst to me, I was in the midst of a life altering transformation. As a person who likes to take the lead in all situations, I never stopped to ask questions about this lump forming and growing in my left breast. I assumed it was a cyst or as a result of a vigorous work out routine I had embarked on.

After a year of this lump growing larger and frankly, becoming a hindrance, I made an appointment with my OBGYN. That Monday morning as I sat being examined by the nurse practitioner and being questioned about the length of time I’d had this lump, I recall thinking: “Could this be serious?”

Now, the signs were there. My sister Charlene, who is six years my senior, had developed breast cancer at this age with a similar experience. She went in for an exam on Tuesday and by Friday of the same week she was in surgery having a mastectomy of her left breast. This was followed by radiation and medication.

So as the APRN (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) continued my exam, she said that I needed to go to another office for a mammogram and then an ultrasound. Like my sister, by Friday, I was in surgery having a lumpectomy, after being diagnosed with early stage 3 breast cancer.

Absolute shock set in and I began my routine of denial. I know that I received intensive chemotherapy for three months, followed by six weeks of radiation. Aside from that, this time period became a blur. I was fortunate enough to have the love and support of my family, in particular, my children and my mother who came up from Virginia to be with me.

As I continued on in this journey, my sister read the scripture (at right) to me. What a loving, humbling, lesson. From that day till now, I strive to recall to mind and heart that I must rely upon Jehovah for guidance and understanding. This is the path to full spiritual, emotional and physical recovery.

And so here I stand, nine years out and continuing to gain strength in all ways. Thanks be to God!

Alice Pritchett, April View My Story »

Alice Pritchett

Up until October of 2008, I was a 12-year cancer survivor. Now, I have resumed the fight.

My story begins one day in May 1996. I noticed a lump in my right breast while giving myself a breast exam. The next day I went to St. Raphael’s mammogram van. They checked my breast and suggested that I go see a surgeon. I made an appointment with a surgeon at Yale and they sent me to get a mammogram.

When the results came back they had me come into the office again. That’s when the doctor told me that I had breast cancer. My daughter was with me and she comforted me. At that time she was a one-year survivor and knew what I was feeling. We called a family meeting to let the rest of my children know what was going on. They all supported me by taking turns going with me to my doctor appointments. I ended up having a lumpectomy and radiation. I did not get sick from the radiation, but it did make me very tired.

I continued to check my breast and go for my yearly mammograms. In October 2008, I realized that I had not gone for a mammogram, so I made an appointment. When I went for my mammogram at Yale they seemed to take a lot more pictures than normal. I asked the radiologist if everything was okay and he said, “Yes.”

A few days later I received a call from my physician and he asked me to come in that day and I said, “OK”. I was a little nervous so I called my daughter, Yvonne. She was at work and could not leave, so she called her daughter (my granddaughter) and asked her to go with me. My granddaughter Alisha and her baby, Jayli, accompanied me. The doctor said I had cancer in my left breast. I said “Oh no, it came back!” I cried and then we left.

I was so nervous that we ended up going shopping for Halloween candy. All I could think about was giving out candy to the kids. When reality hit. I had to take numerous tests so my doctor scheduled a bunch of appointments for me at Yale. Again, all of my children (Jesse, Annette, Yvonne, Marvin and my grandchildren) went with me to my appointments.

I had to have another lumpectomy, but this time I had to have chemo. Although my daughter had chemo years prior, you really do not know what it’s like unless you experience it yourself. I ended up needing a transfusion because my blood count was low. I lost my hair and my hands turned black. One thing I did not lose was my appetite. I think I ended up eating more than usual. It’s so hard to understand how something that is supposed to help you ends up putting you through such rough times.

I am still going through chemo now while writing this, but with the Grace of God, hopefully, by the time this calendar is released, I pray that everything is back to normal for me. I would like to say thank you to my friends and my family for all of their support. It’s a little bit easier to handle when you have such a strong support base. I have always kept my faith in God.

Rose Gerber, May View My Story »

Rose Gerber

In May 2009, I was in Washington DC walking the halls of Capitol Hill with my fellow advocates from Sisters

Journey. We shared our stories with our elected officials hoping to use our collective influence to impact the eradication of breast cancer. But before I became a breast cancer advocate, I was a breast cancer patient. This is my story.

  • Diagnosis: In 2003, while taking a shower, I felt a lump on my breast. I was only 39 years old. After sharing my concerns with my physician, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was devastating news. Only five percent of breast cancer diagnoses occur in women under 40. The average age for a breast cancer diagnosis is 61. Younger patients have unique issues on top of the cancer diagnosis. In my case that included the loss of my fertility and the overwhelming fear that I would leave our children (Alexander was an eight- year-old third grader and Isabella was a six-year-old kindergartener) without a mommy and my husband (35 years old) that I adored, without a wife. Robert and I were dealing with serious issues few people in our age group are forced to cope with.
  • Treatment: A surgical biopsy confirmed that I had stage IIB invasive ductal carcinoma and Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and I was informed that I had a rare sub-type called HER2 positive, which occurred in only 25-30% of cases. Genetic testing also revealed an abnormality on the BRCA 2 gene. Through all this bad news came some good news. I could choose to be in a clinical trial for a drug call Herceptin. Following my biopsy, I had a lumpectomy, port implantation, eight cycles of chemotherapy, 33 treatments of radiation, 52 weeks of Herceptin, Zoladex treatments (ovarian ablation), corrective breast surgery, five years of Tamoxifen (hormonal therapy), and I am now on extended adjuvant treatment (Arimidex).
  • Coping: I chose to be very private during my diagnosis. I was not hiding nor was I in denial. I began sharing my story only when I felt I had processed my own experience and when I was emotionally ready. My husband was (and continues to be) an incredible source of love and support. My extended family, friends, and a great medical team combined to help me through a very difficult time. My coping strategy was to feel informed. Cancer treatments are constantly evolving and as survivors, it’s important that we maintain current knowledge. I combined my professional background in educational counseling and advertising/public relations with my personal breast cancer experience to begin my advocacy work. I volunteer my time with local and national organizations. Locally, I co-founded a breast cancer mentoring program and serve on the Breast Health Action Council (Southeastern CT Public Health Department). I am active with the Komen Connecticut affiliate serving as a grant reviewer for three years and participating in various educational activities. Nationally, I have served as a consumer reviewer on the United States Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Breast Cancer Program. In 2008, I attended the San Antonio Inter- national Breast Cancer Symposium as a patient advocate scholarship recipient, funded through the Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation. I encourage survivors to learn more about these wonderful opportunities.
  • What You Can Do: We have much to be hopeful for; however, we cannot become desensitized or complacent about breast cancer. Schedule your clinical breast exam, a mammogram, and practice breast self examination. Check your breasts while showering or putting on lotion. If you feel a lump, don’t panic, remember the majority of lumps are not cancer, but also, do not ignore a lump. Get your breast cancer information only from accurate, updated sources including www.komen.org and of course, Sisters Journey.

“I WISH YOU WELL!”

Janie (Amy) Johnson, June View My Story »

Janie (Amy) Johnson

My name is Janie (Amy) Johnson, and I would like to share my story with you.

I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 1991 after having a routine mammogram. I was very frightened. I was forty-four years old at the time. I didn’t have any answers and I didn’t know which direction to take; but with the help of my primary care doctor and my oncologist, I was able to make a sound and informative decision regarding my treatment.

My treatment consisted of surgery and six months of chemotherapy.

My husband, Glenn and my sons, Gregory and Andre were there every step of my treatment and recovery. They made sure that I got to all of my appointments and gave me the emotional support needed in that most difficult time.

To God, I will give all the praise and glory for helping me and my family to endure this process. I want to encourage all women to do a monthly self-examination, and to see their doctor for an annual check up. I feel so blessed to live to see my grandson, Andrew.

I am a survivor!

Ada Raiford, July View My Story »

Ada Raiford

On July 10, 1992, just a few days before the birthdays my sister Verlessie and I share in the month of July (I was born on July 20 and my sister on July 14 – three years apart.), I received a partial mastectomy.

I had felt a lump on my breast that was sore just weeks before. I didn’t know what it was but just thought it would go away as fast as it came. However, during church service, my Pastor announced that there was someone in the sanctuary who had a lump on their breast and that person should come for prayer – I knew that it was me – but I didn’t go. However, I did start asking questions and eventually went to see my doctor. Thank God my cancer was found at an early stage.

I advise all to do self-examination often and to see your doctor as soon as you notice or feel a change.

SPREAD THE WORD, educate others and don’t hesitate to go to your doctor. There is life after cancer!

Verlessie Jackson, July View My Story »

Verlessie Jackson

I relocated from Irvington, New Jersey to Hamden, Connecticut during the summer of 2000. Once I arrived, I searched for and found a new physician.

During my visits to update my records, the physician’s assistant insisted that I also make an appointment to get a mammogram. I didn’t get one at first. But good thing she was persistent!

One day I received a call to get my checkup. She insisted that I go. Thank God I listened this time! As a result, they found cancer at its  earliest stage in one breast.

However, since my sister Ada had previously been diagnosed with breast cancer, I chose to get a double mastectomy. What a blessing as they found cancer in both breasts!

I advise everyone to get a mammogram every year. Don’t put anything in the way of your appointment! It’s been about nine years since I was diagnosed, and I thank God for everyday.

Beryl Welcome, August View My Story »

Beryl Welcome

In June of 2006, I went for my annual check-up and the doctor told me it was also time to get my annual mammogram. This I did and when I went back to the doctor for my results, he told me my mammogram was positive on the left breast.

I went to my surgeon who told me she saw some spots in my right breast, but she was not too concerned. My daughter said that she was concerned and insisted I get a second opinion. I did and was told I should have a biopsy on the right breast. I did and it turned out to be positive.

My daughter insisted that I have both breasts operated on at the same time. God has blessed me with a long life. I am 82 years old. I was treated with Arimedex and I stopped taking it in May 2009. I will now only have to see my doctor once a year.

My advice to everyone is to eat right, laugh and exercise. Time is precious; treasure your family and friends. Also remember, Faith in God will help you, if you only ask and believe. I did, and my doctors tell me: I am now cancer free!

Lula Woodson, September View My Story »

Lula Woodson

Iwas diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 1991. At the time I was working at Winchester Repeating Arms.

One day while taking a shower, I discovered a lump. The lump seemed to get larger, so I made an appointment with my General Practitioner.

In the meantime, my sister recommended that I see a surgeon at the Temple Medical Center. After examining me, the surgeon, who was a woman, performed a needle biopsy that revealed that I indeed did have breast cancer. I was immediately scheduled for a mastectomy. Following this surgery I began a course of chemotherapy with Dr. Levy who is an oncologist.

I have seven children, four daughters and three sons. During my recovery, I had lots of love and support from my family and friends. It was not easy; but I believe my faith in God is what got me through that very difficult period.

Since my recovery I have attended various breast cancer support groups. The first one was at the Jewish Community Center in Woodbridge. Then I learned about Sisters’ Journey and attended several of their meetings. I have also participated in workshops sponsored by the Yale School of Nursing.

I was born in North Carolina and moved to Connecticut at the age of nine.

Since 1948, I have been a member of Pitts Chapel. Currently, I am on the Mothers’ Board and over the years have served on several committees at my church.

My mantra is:

Through God all things are possible.

Louise Allen, October View My Story »

Louise Allen

I’ve lived in New Haven for the past 57 years. I have seven children and through my children, family members and friends I have had a lot of support. I first found out about my breast cancer during a regular visit. It was December 19, 1989. I went to the clinic at Saint Raphael Hospital. I had one mammogram, and the doctor suggested I have another. After the second one, they found a spot. Although I never had a lump I could feel, and never felt sick, they wanted to do a biopsy. After the biopsy they said that if I didn’t have surgery I had five years to live. The doctor wanted me to have surgery. They checked to make sure it had not spread to my lymph nodes, and thankfully, it had not.

There was no history of breast cancer in my closest relatives. I prayed that everything would be all right. I didn’t tell anyone until after Christmas because I didn’t want to upset the family.

On February 12, 1990 I had a mastectomy. I never had chemotherapy or radiation, but I had to take a prescription medication for two years. Every year I have my mammogram, and I make sure my three daughters get their yearly mammograms.

I prayed a lot, and my favorite poem is “Footprints in the Sand” which I’d like to share with you in the hope it will inspire someone else struggling with breast cancer.

Footprints in the Sand

One night a man had a dream. He dreamed He was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from His life. For each scene He noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonging to Him and the other to the LORD.

When the last scene of His life flashed before Him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of His life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times of His life.

This really bothered Him and He questioned the LORD about it. LORD you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.

The LORD replied: My precious, precious child, I Love you and I would never leave you! During your times of trial and suffering when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

– Carolyn Carty, 1963

Idella Bell, November View My Story »

Idella Bell

Iam a native of Miami, Florida. I moved to New Haven, Connecticut in 1977. I am a two-year breast cancer survivor.

My journey began in October 2005 when I did a self-breast exam. I felt something the size of a pea on my right breast. I didn’t think it was anything serious at first. But in December 2005, the lump got bigger – it was now the size of a golf ball!

I got scared and made an appointment in January 2006 for a mammogram. That’s when everything started. I had a biopsy and it came back positive.

I was scared, but left it up to God. I was treated with chemotherapy for 12 weeks.

Then I underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatment in October 2006. Thank God I didn’t have cancer in the lymph nodes.

I thank God for keeping me here to tell others what I’ve been through.

I have had a lot of support: the doctors, social workers, Bishop and Mother Brooks, my husband, Willie Bell and my sons, Maurice, Marcus, and Marguet, my sisters, and my sister’s in-law and mother in-law.

Everyone from my job was very supportive. My best friend, “sister” Sandra Watts was there for me through all my treatments.

Lord, I just want to thank you for being so good to me.

Beverly Knox, December View My Story »

Beverly Knox

INVASIVE DUCTAL CARCINOMA, DUCTAL CARCINOMA-IN- SITU…

I still carry the paper in my purse that Doctor Graham, my surgeon, gave me after checking my mammogram and examining me.

My story began in December 2000, when I received a letter concerning my mammogram not looking right and asking if I could come in for another mammogram. It was almost around the holidays, so I decided to wait until after the holidays. I talked to a friend and he told me to go now and get the mammogram. But I was thinking of my family in the back of my mind. Not wanting to ruin anyone’s holiday, I felt I could do this by myself and went in for my mammogram. When I was shown the x-ray, I thought it looked like dried up milk. I was scheduled for a biopsy and was still thinking that I could do this by myself. When I was given the results later and was told that I had breast cancer, I made it to the elevator and broke down crying. God has a way of bringing you down on your knees and calling on Him. I couldn’t go any further. I had worked in hospitals around cancer patients and the end was always the same. I called my sister from the pay

phone and she said, “Get into your car and I’ll meet you at home.”

Family is one of the most important things in my life. I told my sister that I didn’t want any treatment; let the cancer just run its course. She got the phone and called my mother and children. I refused to talk to anyone because I knew what they would say, wanting me to survive this cancer. That night I was surrounded by family.

After seeing Dr. Andrew Graham, I also made an appointment at the Father Michael J. McGivney Center for cancer at Saint Raphael’s Hospital. My oncologist was Dr. Andrea Silber. My first visit was a family affair. My father had Lung Cancer and when he went through his treatments, both chemotherapy and radiation at the same time, he didn’t get sick. When I started, I asked God to give me the strength and courage that my father had. I went through chemotherapy, surgery, and then radiation. Every step of the way my family was there. My appetite was very bad. My sister was always bringing me lunch – she would get this homemade chicken soup which was very, very, very good.

I didn’t get sick while going through my treatments, knowing God didn’t bring me this far to leave me. He had some work for me to do. In November 2004, my gynecologist found ovarian cancer while I was in surgery for a simply hysterectomy. I had to have a stronger dose of chemotherapy. My family was still with me and I was very sick this time. God was still with me, telling me that everything was going to be alright. I still had work that God wanted me to do.

Not everyone has a lump that you can feel in your breast – I didn’t. Please have your yearly mammogram and doctor’s appointment. Your body tells you when something is not right.

I would like to thank Dr. Andrew Graham, Dr. Andrea Silber (you have the heart of an angel; you care about your patients), Dr. Joyce Jung (radiation doctor) and the nurses that put up with me. I would also like to thank my entire family and my church, Christian Tabernacle Baptist Church for their love and support – God bless each and every one of you!

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