Cleone on the frontline
Looking into the mirror, her lustrous golden hair piled limply about her feet on the bathroom floor, Angie Cleone learned something about herself. Her head now clean and bare, her hair removed by her own power, Angie’s fight against cancer had reached a defining moment and a line had been drawn.
It would not be cancer that took Angie’s hair, nor the painful and extensive treatments. Angie was to find empowerment in one of her life’s darkest moments, taking her hair on her own terms and roaring like a lioness at the disease which strikes fear and despair into the hearts of so many.
Angie’s fight had begun many years before when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of just thirty five. She fought bravely for ten years against the disease before it took her life. During the last months of her life, she required full time care and Angie quit her job to look after her mother.
After her mother’s passing, Angie headed overseas on a trip that was supposed to last a few months but somehow drew out to ten years. She worked at everything from fruit picking to waitressing in Europe and the United States. She found love and she lived life with enthusiasm. But she was always aware that the illness that claimed her mother may one day arrive unwelcome at her door. So with prudent vigilance, Angie maintained a routine of regular medical check-ups and mammograms.
It’s a habit she never broke after returning from her travels and as a result got to know her doctor and his staff quite well. Which is why, after stepping into the doctor’s office one day in February 2006, Angie knew instantly that something wasn’t right. I just looked at their faces, and I knew.
Angie, you have breast cancer. A biopsy had revealed a lump in her breast to be a malignant tumour. Five words to announce a ghost from her past had returned. Five words to shape the future.
Surgery was performed and a tiny lump was removed. But such a procedure is not always the final treatment for cancer. Eight months of chemotherapy ensued, followed hard upon by six weeks of radiotherapy. But it was one hot day, shortly after beginning the chemo, that it was time for one good, hard look in the mirror.
Throughout her treatment Angie continued working and exercising. Her whole lifestyle was to be on her terms. Her courage, strength and imperturbable determination were, and continue to be, an inspiration to all who know her. But it’s other cancer sufferers, and all those who’ve been touched by cancer, that Angie wants to help and inspire. “I want to give people hope. There is life after cancer. I believe we are not far from finding a cure and putting an end to such harsh treatments”, is the message she wants everyone to hear.
Angie Cleone founded the ForACURE Foundation in order to raise funds for scientists researching the role of stem cells. The Foundation strongly supports research into this field and is geared towards helping find cures and therapies for many diseases. Angie firmly believes that this young and exciting field is the most promising of all if humanity is to be rid of the dreadful scourge of cancer and other major diseases.
Angie Cleone has won her personal battle with cancer; but she’s still fighting. There’s still a war to be won and Angie, with her Foundation, is standing courageously on the frontline.
Stephen M Thomson