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Read the Stories of our Faces of Courage

Carolyn Siciliano Ngbokoli

Carolyn Siciliano Ngbokoli was an amazing woman who never gave up her fight against metastatic breast cancer. From her diagnosis at age 34 to her death at age 39 not one day did she stop fighting. She was an incredible beautiful soul who could light up a room and leave a lasting impression on everyone's hearts. Her energy, smile and magnetic personality captivated us all. She always put her family and friends first no matter how terrible she felt that day. Her two young sons truly had Wonder Woman as their mother. She will forever be in the hearts of all who were blessed to have Carolyn in their lives.

Sherri Abdalla

In October 2012, Sherri was going to turn 50. In January she began to schedule long over due checkups including a mammogram. In July 2012 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she told her husband and 4 kids about the cancer, she told them they would have a long hard year, but with their help they would get to the other side together. It was a team effort to get through multiple surgeries and treatments following the bilateral mastectomy. Her daughter organized a “Pink Out” at a Kent Island football game. Through the support and love of family and friends, it was all behind her at the one year anniversary of her diagnosis. They walked and celebrated as a team the following year in the Cancer Comfort Angels Walk.


Today she continues encouraging and supporting the women around her for routine self exams, mammograms and follow-up as necessary.  She asks her friends to refer her to women they know who are newly diagnosed and have questions or concerns. She loves sharing her strength and positive attitude by supporting new friends through their journey.

Sharon Brown

Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the year in 2016. She has had a very difficult life, and where most people would have given up, she smiles and powers through all of her challenges. The challenge of facing breast cancer was no different. Through the whole process she handled everything with grace and a positive attitude. Her family and friends have always admired her strength, but this past year she absolutely took their breath away. They are very thankful that Sharon is still with them and definitely consider her a true Face of Courage.

Renée Bench

Renée was diagnosed with breast cancer the day after her 50th birthday. Due to the way Renee’s cancer presented to her doctors, Renée underwent a double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. Renée kept an upbeat attitude and exercised regularly most days during her therapy. Happily 4 years later Renée is literally back in the saddle, fox hunting, serving on numerous nonprofit boards, teaching full time to elementary school children with learning differences and enjoying her new granddaughter Jane.

Laurie Rasinski

December 8, 1963 – April 4, 2016


Laurie was the founder of Cancer Comfort Angels, which provides a simple act of kindness in the form of comfort kits. Each kit includes a handmade blanket, a cross, words of prayer to let the patient know he or she is not alone, and a small poem to provide inspiration and hope beyond the clinical prognosis.


Laurie, who was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer in 2008, was the 2012 Bosom Buddies Ball Honoree. She was extremely active within the community. She was an active member of the Kent Island United Methodist Church. Laurie’s greatest love was her family & friends and watching her children play sports. She was an incredible woman, full of courage, love, strength, kindness and grace.


If you had the pleasure of knowing her you should consider yourself blessed. She was one in a million ~ may she rest in peace forever. Our forever Angel – You will live in our hearts eternally!


by Laurie Rasinski

Cancer is not right or wrong

It doesn’t own you

What it does is make you look inside yourself

A place you may not want to go

But you need to

Find what’s important

Take hold and love it so

In that you will see

There is so much to be thankful for

I know this can be hard

But look inside to find your happiness

What are your dreams?

Live with purpose

And you will find

That cancer is just part of who you are

That you were there all the time

Toni L. Schelts

After a minor battle with thyroid cancer in her 20s, Toni was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer around Mother’s Day 2010. The mass was found near her chest wall on a routine mammogram as she was having no symptoms. After much consideration, Toni opted for a lumpectomy the following month and while all margins were clear after surgery, three out of nine lymph nodes were positive. After five very aggressive chemo treatments, starting in August, and 7 weeks of radiation the following January, she was cancer free!


Toni remained strong and positive during the rough months of treatments and was a great role model of courage for her family.

Deb Terhune Zussman

Deb was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 1999, which resulted in surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Always with a positive attitude, and her unwavering faith in God, Deb threw herself into the  breast cancer fight with a vengeance. She hosted hat parties for chemo patients, worked with the Susan Komen Foundation, and walked 60 miles (twice) for Avon. Deb spoke at high schools about the need for early detection and served on the Suburban Hospital's Breast Center Advisory Board. In 2001, Deb received the Betty Ford Humanitarian Award for her work in the breast cancer fight, and was invited to the White House to meet President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.


Eighteen years later, Deb continues to give back by volunteering for breast cancer, mental health, and disaster relief.  Her motto is "life is short, be kind and make it a sweet ride."

Karen White

Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, which resulted in a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy.  As is the graceful personality of Karen, always with a smile and a positive attitude, she was able to get through her treatments, work, and a move, which brought her to Kent Island during 2001. 


Karen wanted to reach out to others, and for many years she became involved with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and participated in their annual races and organized breast cancer golf tournaments.  Karen started volunteering her time in 2006 with Bosom Buddies Charities, helping with all their events, and later became treasurer.   


Karen continues to amaze her friends and family by being involved in so many activities and fundraising events.

Brenda Dean Abel

Brenda Dean Abel lost her courageous battle with breast cancer on March 16, 2012. When Brenda received her diagnosis of cancer, it simply strengthened her resolve to fight, not just her battle, but also to inspire and mentor others who were diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2009, she completed and raised funds in the 60-mile “Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure” to help end the disease that eventually took her life. Brenda earned not only the love of those who knew her, but also their respect and admiration. Brenda was the 2013 Bosom Buddies Ball Honoree, and we honor her again as a 2018 Bosom Buddies Ball Face of Courage.

Deidre Wilson

In 2002, shortly after moving to the Eastern Shore, Deidre was diagnosed with breast cancer, which resulted in a mastectomy with chemotherapy. She credits Dr. Tafra and her team at AAMC with "saving her life."

As is the generous nature of Deidre, she became involved with a group of philanthropic women on Kent Island, and in 2006, Bosom Buddies Charities was born. She and her husband, John, sponsored the Bosom Buddies Ball at their Chesapeake Bay Beach Club for 7 years.

Through Bosom Buddies, she was instrumental in establishing a breast cancer support center on Kent Island and partnered with AAMC to fund a breast cancer retreat at the Wye Institute. She joined the Board of Bosom Buddies as Treasurer; then as Board Chair, she spearheaded the efforts to raise funds for innovative breast cancer equipment at both AAMC and Shore Regional Health in Easton.

She is so caring and compassionate, and she continues to inspire all who know her!

Stacie Hansen

2017 started off with some great news for Stacie and her husband Courtney and their two adorable boys. They were pregnant with baby #3, and it's a girl! At 16 weeks, Stacie found out Baby Girl had Down Syndrome. Skylar was born on August 6, 2017, and while she will have obstacles to face she is already a fighter.

When Skylar was 10 days old, Stacie was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer. Skylar is being well cared for at the NICU at Johns Hopkins. While Stacie was doing runs from Kent Island to Baltimore daily to be with her baby she is now including cancer treatments as part of the visits to Johns Hopkins.

In light of all of these events, Stacie takes on the challenge as a "new adventure." She is balancing caring for her 2 boys in elementary school, caring for a child in the NICU and fighting cancer. Her community has a rallied around her and her family and she is a Face of Courage!!

Ellen Bell

In 2006, Ellen was diagnosed with breast cancer through self-discovery of a lump in her breast after receiving her annual mammogram. With the support from her husband, family, and friends, she faced this adversity with courage and a positive attitude.  


Ellen's desire to reach out to others in the fight against breast cancer led her to join and volunteer her time with Bosom Buddies Charities for several years. Her new outlook on life led to her recent move from Maryland to the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.

Angelita Martin Bellaflores

Angelita Martin Bellaflores, mother of seven and grandmother “Abuelita” to twelve, is most thankful for her family who have been her support. Her daughter, Biana Arentz, and her grandaugher, Elizabeth, continue to be involved with Bosom Buddies Charities in her honor.


Angelita was diagnosed with breast cancer 27 years ago in 1990.  Her husband Frank Bellaflores was a physician, and he and her children were there for her while she fought her battle with breast cancer.  Dr. Efrain Nazario, in Guayama, Puerto Rico, was her surgeon, and she had a radical mastectomy.  Angelita is a Spanish Civil War survivor. She met her husband while he was studying medicine in Madrid, Spain, where she grew up.  After he graduated, they moved to Puerto Rico and that became their home. Angelita turned 91 this year and her children Paco, Angie, Biana, Tito, Julie, Merchi and Lola are her biggest fans and she is their “Face of Courage.”

Cristina Gifuni

Cristina’s younger sister was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2014. She felt helpless because she couldn’t do anything to help her get better. So, Cristina decided to participate in the Avon 39 walk of 2015 to raise funds and awareness.  Two weeks later, Cristina was diagnosed with state 2B Breast Cancer.

She had been very diligent with her health care and had been having yearly mammograms since the age of 35 due to family history. Unfortunately, she had been misdiagnosed for two years in row. The radiologist misread her mammograms. Although, this happened to Cristina, she’s still a true believer in early detection. One month after her last mammogram, where she was cleared until the next year, her cardiologist found cancer on her left breast during a nuclear stress test!

She had a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and 25 rounds of radiation therapy, and she will be on Arimidex for five years. She just had her six-month check-up and all looks good.  She eat healthy, exercises and tries really hard to keep a positive attitude.

She just completed the Avon 39 Walk in New York City this year and plans on going to Santa Barbara next year! She thanks God every day for giving her the strength and determination to fight. Cristina prays every day for a long and healthy life.

Margaret Dowling

Margaret was 35 when diagnosed and has bravely faced breast cancer. She has been through chemotheraphy, surgery and radiation, as well as physical therapy to complete her recovery. She shows that breast cancer is not just about over 40. She has a wonderful spirit and a great family support system that helped her. She was an AAMC patient and Dr. Tafra was her doctor. What a wonderful success/recovery story!

Bridget Sisk

November 15, 2017, was the one-year anniversary of Bridget’s diagnosis of breast cancer. Her story begins with a mammogram on September 28, 2016, that was negative. She found a lump two weeks later. An ultrasound on November 10 revealed three masses. She was biopsied at that same appointment. After more testing and consultations, her surgery was scheduled for January 6, 2017.  She was 54 years old and had never had surgery or spent one night in the hospital in her whole life. A left mastectomy with reconstruction was performed, and she was sent home the next day. Bridget’s recovery was nothing short of amazing. She was never in any pain or discomfort, and was fortunate enough to recuperate on the Eastern Shore at her sister-in-law's house. Her sister-in-law and her puppies took wonderful care of Bridget while her husband was at work.


After the results of Bridget's biopsy from the surgery, she was told that chemotherapy was needed. So she went on a previously planned vacation to Aruba and came back to start her treatment. On March 8, she had a port inserted and started chemotherapy the same day. The first round of chemo was rough, but bearable. Exactly two weeks in Bridget started to lose her hair. After a quick shave when she returned home from treatment that day, it started to hit her that she was a cancer patient. The second round was a breeze. She even returned to work on June 19 with 6 treatments left to go. Bridget finished her chemotherapy on July 26. What a celebration!


After waiting a month to have another PET scan to determine if radiation was needed, Bridget was told she was cancer free. She will be on medication for the next 5 to 10 years, but that is just swallowing a pill every day. 


She feels she has had the most positive cancer journey that one could only hope for. She was and is still surrounded by the best support group of family and friends. Bridget now has beautiful eyebrows, eyelashes and hair. Cancer didn't beat her.  She beat Cancer!

Diana Waterman

Diana discovered a lump in her breast during a self-exam in early Fall 2015. Following screening and biopsies, she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer with lymph node involvement on November 19. After meeting with her breast surgeon, a four-pronged approach to treatment was suggested and implemented – chemotherapy first, double mastectomy plus lymph node removal second, radiation third, and finishing with reconstruction.

Learning that you have cancer is a pretty terrible thing. Going through it is even worse. But Diana believes she was very lucky to have an amazing medical team at the Breast Center at Anne Arundel Medical Center. She is so thankful for everyone at AAMC who has been a part of this journey.

Diana recently served as the Honorary Chairman for the Inaugural Driving Away Cancer Golf Tournament. This event raised funds to purchase comfortable new caregiver chairs for the Infusion Center in the DeCesaris Cancer Institute.

Diana credits her network of caregivers, including her amazing husband, family, and friends for giving her strength when she was failing and support every step of the way. She hopes that others will draw strength from hearing about her experience and from seeing that she is a cancer thriver!

Elise (Dee-Dee) Murphy

Elise (Dee-Dee) Murphy was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2016 at the age of 69.  Faithful to yearly mammography screening her cancer was detected early.  Treatment included two partial mastectomies and lymph nodes in January and February 2017, followed by radiation in April.   

Dee-Dee is the oldest of four sisters & four brothers.  Her Mom, Dorothy, is 93 and a breast cancer survivor since age 76.  Cancer has no age limit. 

As wife to Bill, mom to Mark and Gail and grandmother to Ben, Lily and Drew, she knows that their love and support has given her the strength to encourage others. 

She is grateful to her friend, Susan Ponchock, for the vision she had 10 years ago to give back to others battling this disease. Dee-Dee will be one of our honorees at the 2018 Bosom Buddies Ball.

Christina Cugle

In 2015, Christina was diagnosed with an aggressive breast cancer at thirty-nine years old. At the recommendation of her doctors, she underwent genetic testing and learned that she is a carrier of the BRCA-1 gene mutation which significantly increases a person’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Christina, with the world-class team of doctors, nurses, and physical therapists at Anne Arundel Medical Center, developed and completed a treatment plan including chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, reconstruction, a total hysterectomy with oophorectomy and physical therapy.  


Christina is truly grateful for the love and support of her family and friends. She credits her husband, Jeremy and son, Mason with keeping her strong and positive during treatment.


Christina discovered the abnormality in her breast during a self-examine and scheduled an appointment with her doctor the same week. She believes early detection and prompt treatment saved her life. As a survivor, Christina wants to help others by raising awareness and providing state of the art resources to facilitate early detection and support treatment for those diagnosed with breast cancer.  She serves as Director for Bosom Buddies Charities with a team of incredible women carrying out Susan Ponchock’s mission. She will be one of the honorees at the 2018 Bosom Buddies Ball.

Doris and Nancy Egan

Doris Egan was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 68.  She noticed a lump while on a trip to Las Vegas to celebrate her 45th wedding anniversary.  After a lumpectomy and removal of her lymph nodes on her one arm she became an advocate of early detection and a participant in the Baltimore Race for the Cure with her daughter Nancy Egan. 


Fourteen years ago after noticing some changes to her breast, Nancy was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer at age 45. She had two lumpectomies, but the margins were still not clear.  Three days before her unilateral mastectomy, she celebrated her gratitude for her loving supportive friends by inviting them to ride as her court and she as a queen on a float in the Baltimore St. Paddy’s Parade. She continued to walk with her mom in the Race for the Cure until her mom’s death at age 90.  


Just a reminder to all to celebrate and express gratitude every day as a survivor.  

Dr. Tania Howard Pritz

Tania was diagnosed on January 17, 2017, after a screening mammogram. The diagnosis threw her for a loop -- she answered the doctor's call while driving and got pulled over for speeding at the same time. After the police officer left, she called her dear mother-in-law, who has been a pillar of strength for her.  She is so grateful for early detection and the wonderful care she received at AAMC, from mastectomy through reconstruction. The entire team was compassionate and spent so much time working with her on a care plan that ensured a great outcome, yet dealt with her concerns for long-term treatment. She has since been able to share her story with many other, newly-diagnosed women, and she is a huge advocate for screening mammography. It saved her life!

Elizabeth DeCesaris

Elizabeth was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, just a week before her 34th birthday. She noticed some changes to her breast and found a lump during a self-check. She now spreads the importance of listening to your body and making time for your health.


After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, she is a survivor.


She received so many prayers and support from her community that she wants to give back. Elizabeth is Vice Chair of Bosom Buddies Charities and serves on a number of other committees.


She and her cousin Jenna have a graphic design business called Little Bit Heart; after her diagnosis, they started a Pink Collection, selling stationery and art prints online, where 100% of the profits, year round, go to The Rebecca Fortney Breast Center at Anne Arundel Medical Center where Elizabeth was treated.

Susan Ponchock

After surviving the diagnosis of an aggressive type of breast cancer, the trauma of surgery, a stem cell trans­plant, chemotherapy, and radi­ation, Susan made a vow to “give back.” Recognizing the enormous role everyone in her life played in her physical and mental recovery, i.e., medical staff, family and friends, Susan wanted to help others who had been diagnosed with breast cancer to obtain the very best advice and treatment right here on the Eastern Shore.


In the Fall of 2006, Susan gathered 20 powerful women from our local communities who shared a personal connection to breast cancer. They quickly embraced Susan’s vision, and Bosom Buddies Charities was born. 


Over the last 10 years, Bosom Buddies has raised more than $2 million for programs and services supporting breast cancer patients.


We honor Susan as a true Face of Courage, and applaud the significant contribution she has made to ensuring individuals battling this disease have access to testing and treatment.

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