Brenda Rider will celebrate the sixth anniversary of her diagnosis in May.
AUSTINTOWN -- Brenda Rider's bout with breast cancer had an unusual side effect.
It made her talk more.
"I really am one of the most private people you will ever meet," the 43-year-old Austintown native said. "But cancer -- I talk about it all the time. I tell everybody about it. I think it makes you more approachable. I usually don't talk about things so much, but with cancer, I don't mind. I never mind."
Rider turned her need to communicate about cancer into a non-profit organization called A Way With Words Foundation. Through it, she encourages other cancer survivors to share their stories.
She has written songs and poems since she was 10 years old. "I don't know where it came from," she said, "but if somebody needed a poem for an occasion, they would ask me, and I could always come up with one."
In May 1999, Rider encouraged a friend to have a mammogram, a breast X-ray used to detect cancer. The American Cancer Society advises women to have a baseline mammogram by age 40, then one every two years after 50. Her friend, who was 50, had never had one. Rider offered to go along with her for moral support, and she had one done too.
The friend's test was negative; Rider's detected cancer.
Her treatment started immediately -- eight rounds of chemotherapy, 34 radiation treatments. She lost her hair.
She feels lucky; in May, she'll celebrate the sixth anniversary of her diagnosis.
She wrote a song called "Rainbow of Ribbons" a few years ago. That song, which is played at many American Cancer Society events, is also called "The Survivor's Song." She got the idea from the ribbons that so many wear to indicate survival and support, she said.
"It's about surviving life in general," Rider said. "It doesn't matter what color ribbon you have, we're all in this together."
Rider remains active in cancer awareness programs. Last year, she compiled a book, "There's Hope in What We Do," that features poems and stories from 15 cancer patients ranging in age from 9 to 88.
"There's a lot of cool stuff in it," she said. "Famous people always get published; [the book] allows those with cancer their chance. It offers a different look at things."
She's already collecting material for another book. A children's book, completely written by children, will be out by Christmas.
"I have some cancer survivors tell me they don't care to write too much, but want to do art," she said. "So these books might include some artwork too."
Proceeds from the books are donated to cancer research and other local charities.
Rider also expresses herself with ROCcK, Raising Our Commitment to Cancer Kids, a choir of children ages 5 to 17. The group includes patients from Tod Children's Hospital, siblings, friends and anyone else who has been touched by cancer.
"There's no talent or training required, its just about love of music," Rider said. "I'll write the music and the kids perform. There's no song about cancer; they're all about life, hope and the kids' lives."
Rider founded ROCcK with musician friends Paul Skowron and Janeen Williams, and all proceeds from the group's CD goes to Tod Children's Hospital.
XA Way With Words Foundation is seeking material for its next book. Submissions can be mailed to A Way With Words, Inc., 14 N. Anderson, Austintown, OH 44515, or submitted online at www.awaywithwordsfoundation.com.