“We are the warriors and the villagers and the hope that lives,” Tarrah Stroda told the 300 people assembled for the 11th annual Hope Lives celebration Wednesday evening.

Stroda, from Junction City, was the keynote speaker for the fundraiser and party. She has been a warrior in the thick of the battle. Ten members of her family, including her mother, aunt, sister, grandmother, husband and herself all battled cancer in the past 20 years. Six of them lost that war.

Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after Stroda’s first son was born in 2007. Stroda shopped for wigs with her, went to chemo with her.

“She nailed it like a boss,” Stroda said.

Nine months later, Stroda at age 30 was diagnosed with breast cancer. She kept up her demanding schedule as a certified nurse midwife delivering hundreds of babies, college professor, new mother, wife and daughter while starting treatment.

Six months after she started treatment, her husband started treatment for the first of his three fights with cancer.

The three were treated simultaneously at KU Medical Center.

In 2010, just after Stroda’s second son was born, her mother’s cancer returned and she died just a month later.

“Her death changed me,” Stroda said.

She stayed strong again, she said, and won national awards for her work.

“We had learned that life and time are never guaranteed,” she said. They “experienced glorious highs and horrific lows.”

In 2017, her husband was diagnosed with cancer for a third time and fought hard.

“I survived; he did not,” she said, after a moment of silence and through tears.

The audience was in tears with her several times during her talk.

Stroda’s definition of a warrior does not depend on battle scars but on what we do next, she said.

Throughout all this, she said, hope lives. She learned to laugh, to celebrate and to be appreciative.

“I learned a lot about myself,” she said. “Hope lives. In fact, sometimes it’s all I have left.”

Committee chairwoman and emcee Brenda Holm encouraged all attendees to get a mammogram this year. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, she told the audience, but only 50 percent of women ages 50 and older will get a mammogram.

She encouraged the women to get their mammograms at Memorial Health System where the 3D mammography machine is just a year old and gives a 40 percent better reading than the old mammograms.

Even with all the tears, members of the audience had an enjoyable evening. There were door prizes, a silent auction and raffles. Diane Wyatt called out the raffle numbers. More than 100 area businesses and individuals contributed to the evening. Based on the number of raffle tickets in the jar, the most popular item by far was a Chicago Bears package from Cody and Hannah Whitehair.

Funds will go to Memorial Health System to help provide free mammograms for women without health insurance and the Elsie Brooks Memorial Cancer Fund of Dickinson County which helps pay expenses for people being treated for cancer.

Contact Jean Bowers at reporter2@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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