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Going all out

Lake Oswego mom and real estate agent Dianne Gregoire puts her all into the fight against breast cancer
by: Vern Uyetake, Dianne Gregoire of Lake Oswego is getting ready to lead Team Dianne in the 2008 Portland Race for the Cure on Sept. 21.

When Dianne Gregoire was stricken with breast cancer last year she took no half measures.

She did everything within her power to deal with her life-threatening disease, and ultimately she decided to have a double mastectomy.

'I think my message is that women need to do everything in their power to detect breast cancer early,' Gregoire said. 'And that means mammograms and self exams.'

Gregoire gave cancer a whipping, and today she is quite radiantly healthy. She lives her life to the fullest as a wife, mother and real estate agent in Lake Oswego.

But she is far from sitting on the sidelines in the war against breast cancer. Gregoire is now forming a team to compete in the 17th annual Susan G. Komen Portland Race for the Cure, set for Sept. 21.

'That organization does so much for the support of breast cancer survivors,' Gregoire said. 'It holds conferences, it sends out e-mails, it gives out mammograms and even gas cards.

'Everyone knows about the Race for the Cure, but fundraising is Susan Komen's main source of income. We want people to be aware that giving a donation is a really big deal.'

Not every woman is as bold in confronting breast cancer as Gregoire. In fact, many women feel nothing less than terror with the prospect. Gregoire tells of one friend who knows she should do self breast exams for possible lumps, but 'she doesn't do it because she's afraid she'll find something. Now that is not the approach!'

But Gregoire has a fact that may motivate women to take mammograms and do self exams: Oregon and Washington County have the highest rate of breast cancer in the nation.

'The reason isn't certain,' Gregoire said. 'They think it might be the lack of sunlight and women not getting enough Vitamin D.'

Whatever the reason it raises the odds that women here will find themselves in the same situation as Gregoire in April, 2007. Just two months after she had passed a physical with flying colors, she discovered a lump in her breast. She wasted little time in taking the strongest possible action.

'I went for it,' Gregoire said. 'I wanted to get it right the first time. I did not want to spend my life worrying about it.'

The operation proved that Gregoire was right. Righter than she first realized.

'I no longer trust diagnosis,' Gregoire said. 'The lump was supposed to be little, but it turned out to be big. The MRI showed it was 2 centimeters, but the surgery showed it was 6 centimeters. Two-thirds of the lump had not shown up at all.'

While Gregoire is an uniquely strong person, fighting cancer is a team effort, and as soon as her diagnosis was made known, she found she had a very good teammate, indeed - Diana Wilson.

'Diana was the big part of this,' Gregoire said. 'I had only known her through Girl Scouts (Gregoire is neighborhood chair; Wilson, the mother of three daughters, is a troop leader). But when I got my diagnosis she rallied to my side. She was amazing. I had no clue she would do it.

'Diana organized a Race for the Cure team for me that raised $6,000.'

As Wilson puts it, her fervent support for Gregoire was a 'no brainer.'

'Dianne is such a giver,' Wilson said. 'She gives and gives and gives and does and does and does for other people. It was my pleasure, absolutely. It is so blessed to have her healthy, healed and hot. (it was 104 degrees on Aug. 15, the day of this interview). She is so not ego driven.'

Yet Wilson also had a very personal reason for aiding Gregoire.

'I lost my mom to breast cancer when she was 50 years old.'

Thanks to the vivacious Wilson, Gregoire's Race for the Cure team assembled 35 members and was the 8th best fundraising team in the entire state of Oregon.

This year - healthy, healed and happy - Gregoire is teaming up with Wilson to form another Race for the Cure team; while realizing that last year's success will be difficult to duplicate.

'Two things are different,' Gregoire said. 'Last year the diagnosis was so new and everyone was so shocked. Their generosity of spirit came so easy. There was a sense of urgency.

'There's also our economy. People are struggling.'

Wilson, of course, is optimistic.

'My goal is to raise $5,000,' she said.

The two women just may do it. In their first three weeks of organizing they have already signed up 20 team members.

Wilson conveys a sense of urgency in explaining why it is so necessary for this year's Race for the Cure to be a success.

'It is such a good feeling to do this,' Wilson said. 'You are doing something pro-active against something that is awful. You're making something really good come out of it.

'One in eight women will be affected by breast cancer. That so blows my mind! My mom died from it. Dianne got it. I want it to end.'

Gregoire and Wilson say there are several ways in which people can contribute to Race for the Cure, but Gregoire says, 'The best way is to become a team member.'

The Race for the Cure will be held on Sept. 21 in downtown Portland. The event is expected to attract 50,000 Oregonians.

To make donations for Dianne Gregoire's team go to the Susan Komen Foundation Web site at www.komenoregon.org/donate/ . Click on Donate Today at top right, then fill in the name Dianne Gregoire.