Sisters Take Strides for Breast Cancer

Most people will agree that measuring a mother’s love in miles and money is difficult. Breast cancer survivor 47-year-old Stephanie Scalise’s daughters, 20-year-old Samantha, 18-year-old Lauren, and 16-year-old Emilie, beg to differ. The people of Smyrna and surrounding areas through the family-centered walk Strides for Survivors, founded by the girls, have walked 10.8 miles and raised about $40,000 over four years in honor of their mother and grandmother and gratitude for their recovery. Monies raised from the family’s event support TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation the non-profit that played a big part in turning Stephanie’s and her mother, 78-year-old Susan Gruskin’s, lives around.

“The biggest thing about TurningPoint is that they understand,” shares Stephanie.”Through nutrition, massage, Pilates and communication with other breast cancer survivors, doctors help get you back to yourself. It’s a community where everyone with whom you interact is very sympathetic - it’s extremely proactive and therapeutic.

“Specifically, in my case, most beneficial was the hands-on therapy, working with my lymphedema and cording. Lymphedema is the blockage within the lymphatic system or fluid retention. Cording is the tightness that happens when the lymphatic system doesn’t work properly. The cancer spread into my lymph nodes, causing me to have both chemotherapy and radiation.”

Stephanie’s breast cancer story starts in the early afternoon on warm July 27, 2015, when she daughter Lauren were on their way to get Samantha “Sam” from softball practice. “Mom got a phone call from one of her doctors and started crying,” remarks Lauren.  “I didn’t know who called but knew that it was serious. Mom pulled off the road, and tears flowed freely from both of us. I asked Mom who called, and she said,‘I have stage 3 breast cancer.’” 

Later, at the time of Stephanie’s surgery, as a part of an eighth grade English assignment, Lauren wrote a narrative about her family’s tragedy. 

“I was asked to read it  and had I known that I would be asked to read to the entire class, I would have chosen another subject,” says Lauren. “At dinner, I shared what had happened and Emilie asked, ‘What if we do a fund-raising walk?’ And here we are, about $40,000 later.”

Stephanie says that other than registering the walk with the city and getting a permit, the girls did all the work.

“The girls were ambitious and wanted the walk to be a success. The 2.7-mile walk, which starts at the girls’ very-supportive Galloway School, winding around Chastain Park, started in fall 2016. The event is always held in February and the next walk is Feb. 6, 2021," says Thomas Smith for TurningPoint. "At this point, it is unknown whether or not it will be virtual. Fifteen-year-Smyrna residents, Stephanie and daughters knocked on doors, talked to business owners, and received a warm reception from Smyrna and surrounding areas.”  For a $250 donation, sponsors get their names on event t-shirts – printed under the direction of the Scalise family. 

From the beginning,  Daniel Scalise also played a big part by keeping the family together, seeing that the girls were at their designated places and making sure that everything was as normal as possible until things returned to normal.  “Dad kind of works in the background,” says Emilie. “He puts all the tables out at Strides for Survivors walk and makes sure that all the tech is set up. He makes everything presentable.”

“It makes me happy to say that my mom is a breast cancer survivor. It has made me realize what it is about and what Mom went through, i.e., our little bubble together. Being able to give back to TurningPoint makes us happy and that amazingly, we have ourmom back,”  says Emilie who is a junior at Galloway School.     

Lauren is a freshman at Wofford College and shares, “When all this started, I could never have imagined that today, our mom and grandma, through the medical field and TurningPoint, are well. I’m just thankful that all these people helped. The people at TurningPoint tell us that we have helped many people – more than we ever dreamed possible.”                                                    

Twenty-year-old-University of Tennessee-junior Sam shares, “I think the most humbling thing is that our mom and grandma have gotten through this. We can be a role model to not just sit back but take control by doing something about it. I have been to TurningPoint with mom and seen firsthand how our efforts touch people’s lives through Strides for Survivors walk.”

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