"Alice Spangler, head of ticket sales for the fashion shows, approached me that day and said they needed me to sell tickets at Stone and Thomas the following week. I think that organization would have had a loss if I had wandered off.
"Then I became involved in diabetic camp. I would take my dietetic trainees. That's where they said it all came together.
"National Nutrition Week started in the 1970s. I asked Sharon Rockefeller if she would be the honorary chair. That impressed the national organization. The national president asked if I would be interested in the national level. I said no, Charleston is my home, and that's where I want to give back.
"But in 2003, I had the opportunity to do volunteerism and also something on the national level. I was chairman of public policy for the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That was the year we got diabetes and end-stage renal disease approved for Medicare. That's where I got that Waterford crystal award.
"I was president twice of the West Virginia Symphony League. I started modeling for Stone and Thomas in the Symphony fashion shows in 1984. After Stone and Thomas closed, we weren't going to do the fashion show anymore. Then we decided we would bring it back to life.
"I modeled in it this past year, even in my wig. I have ovarian cancer. In 2009, I was having lower pelvic pain. My sister died of ovarian cancer. Betty Schoenbaum said to me, 'Helen, you look good from the waist up, but you need to do something about your stomach.' She's my Jewish mama.
"In 2010, they did an ultrasound but didn't find anything. I lost a kidney to cancer in 2005, so they avoided using a dye to keep from damaging my kidney. In 2012, right before I went to Europe with the Youth Symphony, I got out of bed, and I could barely straighten up.
"When I got back from Europe, they did a CT scan with contrast. Dr. Jay Leef said, 'Helen, you've got big problems.'
"They did a radical surgery. They were very pleased with it. I took eight chemo treatments. They thought everything was going to be OK. Then the CA-125 started coming back up. That's the only measure they have for ovarian cancer.
"It's very difficult to diagnose. I was having lower pelvic pain and bloating, which are among the signs, and given the fact that my sister, Melba, had ovarian cancer, maybe I should have been more proactive.
"They were very up front with me. The type I have is aggressive. It is not curable, but it is treatable.
"People say, 'You have been so gracious in handling this.' Well, Melba was a wonderful teacher. We knew we were losing her. The three of us were all together one evening. Betty left for home. She told her husband she couldn't breathe. She died suddenly of a lung embolism. Betty was the rock of our family. Three weeks later, Melba died. She was holding on for me. I told her go be with Betty, that I would be OK.
"I have never cried. I read today where a 34-year-old died of ovarian cancer. I feel pretty fortunate to be in my 70s.
"I find that people are afraid of death. I have some wonderful supportive friends. My brother-in-law, Tom Carson, is the epitome of support. But I have some friends who don't know what to say, so they don't say anything.
"At M.D. Anderson, they put me on a hormone blocker. After two months, it wasn't working. So I'm starting new chemo. It has a 15 to 20 percent chance of being effective for a time.
"I've accepted that this is something over which I have no control. When the women are fussing around about Symphony Sunday and praying for it not to rain, I always say, 'If it rains, it's God's way of saying He's still in charge.' I feel the same way about this.
"I'm still chairman of the Board of Licensed Dietitians. I worked yesterday. I'm going today to a Tech Foundation meeting in Montgomery. There are things I want to do.
"Of all the things I've done, the most important was the Holocaust Education program with Dr. Steve Jubelirer in 2002 and 2006. We bussed in about 5,000 students. One speaker was Michael Berenbaum, project director for the Holocaust Museum.
"Another thing that was very rewarding for me was the Volunteer Council for the League of American Symphonies. Our role was to counsel other volunteer orchestras. We met three times a year, usually in New York. In 2001, they asked me to do a workshop in Florida where they had 31 orchestras.
"I've had a lot of heartache, but I've had a great life. Willard was my soul mate, my partner in life. My sisters were my lifemates.
"I was embraced in love, engaged in a rewarding profession and energized through volunteerism. If I am to leave any legacy, let it be that I inspired others to become volunteers. I cannot imagine a society without volunteers. It reaffirms our humanity."Reach Sandy Wells at san...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5173.