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Woman takes cancer battle to Capitol Hill

May 03, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG - When Julie Gantz was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, she was a single mother with three children ranging in age from 1 to 9 years old.

"I had a cough that wouldn't go away," Gantz said.

She said she could feel a lump in her chest but she ignored it.

A trip to a doctor and a regimen of antibiotics didn't clear it up so Gantz saw another doctor who ordered X-rays.

"He showed me this big cloud on the left side of my chest between my lung and ribs," she said.

The diagnosis was large cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma and it was inoperable. She went through chemotherapy as well as 20 rounds of radiation and the tumor was gone.

"I never thought for a moment that I was going to die," Gantz said. "I had three kids under 10 - I couldn't even let myself think about it."

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Perhaps it was this positive attitude that led to Gantz being selected by the American Cancer Society as one of 11 volunteers from Maryland's 6th Congressional District as Celebration Ambassadors on Capitol Hill.

She and the others will journey to Washington, D.C., to participate in the American Cancer Society's Celebration on the Hill Sept. 19-20.

They will join thousands of other ambassadors from every congressional district in the nation advocating for cancer-related public policy issues on Capitol Hill.

In addition to their participation in the celebration, the selected ambassadors will serve a two-year term as legislative advocates for the Cancer Society, participating in grassroots advocacy efforts to positively influence public policy at the local, state and federal levels.

"I just had a bout with cervical pre-cancer but it's being taken care of," Gantz said.

Even though she has been clear for 10 years from her previous cancer, she still keeps up with checkups because of the possibility of such occurrences.

Gantz said she volunteered for the advocacy program last year. She said she was active in the work of cancer research by volunteering with Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fundraiser.

This year's event will be June 16-17 and Gantz is a team captain.

"The American Cancer Society has funded 39 Nobel Prize winners who are doing research on cancer," Gantz said.

Initially, the Ambassadors will focus their advocacy efforts on increasing funding for research through the National Institutes of Health and expanding prevention, detection and treatment programs, particularly the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

Born in Fort Ashby, W.Va., Gantz, 41, moved to Smithsburg in 2000. Her oldest child graduated from Smithsburg High in 2004.

Currently associated with Diagnostic Imaging Services at Robinwood Medical Center, Gantz is the operations specialist for the transcription department.

"My kids have always stood behind me," Gantz said. "They cared for me and looked out for me."

The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer through research, education, advocacy and service.

For information about cancer, call 800-227-2345 or log onto www.cancer.org.

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