Updated Fri, Oct 4, 2013 12:00 pm
Seemingly everyone knows someone who has been impacted by breast cancer. Cancer in general can effect lives in a variety of manners, including the ability to take it altogether. Almost two years ago, one woman in Athens County died after finally losing a courageous battle against cancer. But her memory, character, words of wisdom and love carry on through many others.
Judy Houska was 68 years old when she died on Oct. 6, 2011. She was a teacher with a passion for the sciences but she was also active in her community. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, Houska made it a point to educate herself about the disease and to become active in her own treatment.
Noticing that there was virtually no support in Athens County for those suffering from cancer, Houska was instrumental in forming the Southeast Ohio Breast Cancer Survivors Network. There, she would empower others to take control of their lives and not let cancer control them. She used her trademark enthusiasm to comfort others and to let them know that they were not alone in their fight and that what they experienced was shared by others.
Sunday, Houska was honored at the O’Bleness 6th Annual PinkTea Luncheon as the event focused on “Celebrating the women who inspire us.”
Houska’s daughter Heidi Houska Samick was one of the family members in attendance Sunday.
“She was just a big part of the community. This is special for her to be honored in that way,” Samick said of her mother. “(The Southeast Ohio Breast Cancer Survivors Network) did an excellent job talking about who she was, her personality, that she was a go-getter. She was an energetic person and always had some reason to keep you laughing. That she was honored is a special thing for our family.”
Although the pain of Houska’s death is still fresh in their minds, the thought that the family's matriarch was able to impact so many lives provides comfort.
“She worked hard for breast cancer education,” said Samick. “She really inspired a lot of women through her teaching career and after with the support group. She tried to empower women to have a choice and to take control of their cancer education.”
Georganne Thomas is a member of the Southeast Ohio Breast Cancer Survivors Network and was personally affected by Houska when she herself was diagnosed with cancer.
“Until you’ve been down that road ... the emotions ... someone comes along and helps you down that road and ... she’s gone ... If there was a need, she met it. She was a very compassionate woman,” Thomas said. “Judy never met a stranger. She was a person of love and I’m very pleased she was recognized for what she did.
“Judy was always on us to keep up on our checkups,” she added. “She wanted us to take control of our bodies. She had an impact on hundreds of people who have impacted who knows how many since. She didn’t want recognition, she just wanted us to be survivors and wanted no woman to feel alone.”
Lisa Bolin and Janice Blower co-organized the PinkTea Luncheon and felt honored being able to recognize Houska.
“I’m really so incredibly pleased,” said Bolin. “It was a flawless day. From the music to each of the speakers and honoring Judy, it was beautiful. It was a really nice day for her family.”
“I thought it was great,” added Blower. “We had good attendance, the speakers were right on and the whole thing came together nicely.”
“I can’t say how much she loved this community,” Samick said of her mother. “It was her way of contributing at that part of her life and I’m so grateful that her work continues on. I can’t say how much this means to us.”
The Southeast Ohio Breast Cancer Survivors Network meets every second Thursday of the month at the Bingo Hall behind The Plains VFW at 7 p.m.