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For cancer survivors, tulip bulbs bring promise of tomorrow

Oak Lawn firefighter Robert Wesselhoff plants some tulip bulbs 2012 event.  |  File photo

Oak Lawn firefighter Robert Wesselhoff plants some tulip bulbs at the 2012 event. | File photo

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Advocate Christ Center for Breast Care is at 4545 W. 103rd. St., Oak Lawn

Call (708) 684-1000 or visit advocatehealth.com/cmc/centerforbreastcare

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Updated: November 15, 2012 6:34AM



Nature packs a lot into a single tulip bulb: Patience, trust, hope.

“Tulips represent life,” said Emma Carlino, a six-year breast cancer survivor.

Carlino, of Hickory Hills, joined other survivors, as well as community leaders, local firefighters and medical professionals Friday to launch the annual planting of tulip bulbs in the beds around Advocate Christ Center for Breast Care in Oak Lawn.

When the 3,000 pink flowers bloom in the spring, the wash of color up and down 103rd Street will remind passersby of the importance of regular screenings, said Peggy Kupres, coordinator of survivor and external relations at Christ.

Kupres, an 11-year breast cancer survivor, started the tulip program five years ago at the Oak Lawn Village Hall. After the breast care center opened the next year, the mass planting was moved to the new location.

Once the blooms die in late spring, the bulbs are dug up and sold, with proceeds benefitting the center. Unsold bulbs are given to newly diagnosed cancer patients, Kupres said.

“They can take them home and plant them, as a sign of hope,” she said.

By planting tulips, Oak Lawn Mayor Dave Heilmann said, “We’re saying there is a tomorrow and yeah, we’re gonna get through this.”

Like everyone present, Heilmann experienced the terror of cancer when his wife was diagnosed with it more than a year ago.

“Through days like today, working together, we can beat this horrible disease,” he said.

Carol Banks, of Chicago’s Beverly community, plans to check in on the bulb she planted. She purposely chose a spot near a window so she would be able to identify the flower once it opens in May.

Banks, 64, discovered a lump in her breast in January. She has been through chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and seven of 33 radiation treatments so far.

Her mood is upbeat and she says she feels good.

“I was so surprised to be invited to this event,” she said. “I love it.”

Dan Rooney, an Oak Lawn firefighter and paramedic, helped her plant the bulb.

“It gives me a good feeling to know I’m helping the community, supporting them. I have friends and family who have this disease,” Rooney said.

On Oct. 31, Laura Collachia will become a nine-year breast cancer survivor. She and her husband, Jim, are active in raising money to fight the disease through the Oak Lawn Raiders Social and Athletic Club. She participated in the planting event because she wanted to show her support for others struggling with the disease.

The tulip bulbs were donated by Nick Galatte, of Bruno Galatte Landscape. The majority of the planting will be done by Galatte employees.

“I do this because my daughter, Gina, is an eight-year survivor,” he said.

Carlino, 70, said she was honored to participate in the ceremonial planting.

Having cancer, she said, reminds you of what really matters: family, friendship and faith.

Surviving it, and getting to participate in a group exercise that may result in saving someone else’s life, “is a privilege,” she said.

“Things like this help us to move on and live a full life,” she said.



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