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October 19, 2012

Lutherans for Liesl

Walk helps Beverly family raise awareness of inflammatory breast cancer

BEVERLY — Nothing can prepare a husband for the fight of his wife’s life.

Mike Voosen Fields met his wife, Liesl, while both were counselors at Calumet, a Lutheran camp in New Hampshire. They married in 2002 and bought a house in 2004, settling down in Beverly.

No one could predict that before their 10th wedding anniversary, Liesl would be diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer. Known as IBC, the disease presents itself through symptoms such as redness, swelling and tenderness in the breast — symptoms not typical of other known breast cancers.

Within weeks, family friends Sarah Arens and Shannon O’Brien asked if they could form a team for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. Naming themselves Lutherans for Liesl, the team raised $22,000, which the society earmarked for IBC research.

Mike, Liesl, and family and friends took part in this year’s walk, held Oct. 14. Mike talked about the experience, and what he’s learned since his wife’s diagnosis.

What made you want to

participate in a walk?@question:

Frankly, I didn’t know what else to do. We decided early on that we wanted to be vocal advocates for inflammatory breast cancer mostly because we had never heard of it. We knew about looking for lumps and the importance of mammograms, but this snuck up on us. While it only accounts for 1 to 5 percent of breast cancers in the U.S., it did not feel like 1 percent to us. While it can be difficult to discuss, we feel charged to do so.

The American Cancer Society is well-established, and I felt like it would be good to be involved with them for the reach and influence. There are groups that are targeted on IBC only or groups which are locally focused, and while we would like to help them all, we have two little girls, Marika (5) and Valena (2), that like to keep us occupied in our downtime.

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