In her thirty-one years of life, Svetlana Lunger has had to encounter more hardship than anyone should ever have to face. A native of Russia, Svetlana’s early life was riddled with the effects of communism which included the rationing of food and waiting in lines for bread. When Mrs. Lunger was sixteen, her family came to the United States as refugees; leaving behind an older brother that she loved dearly. Two years after moving to the United States, Svetlana was diagnosed with a rare form of ovarian cancer. While her peers were planning for adult life, Svetlana spent her eighteenth year preparing for an intense battle; a battle for her life. This diagnosis ultimately led to the removal of one of her ovaries and threatened the possibilities of her ever becoming a mother. Thankfully, in August of 2009 with just one ovary, Svetlana was blessed with her beautiful daughter, Anatasia. Anatasia will turn four this summer.
Svetlana and her husband, Kevin are now at war with her second bout with cancer. In July of 2011, Svetlana was given the news that any cancer survivor dreads: the cancer had returned. This time around, stage four kidney cancer is the diagnosis. Svetlana continues to amaze her family and friends as she battles on while undergoing her fifth round of treatment. Previous treatments have been unsuccessful and doctors have exhausted their options. Despite it all, Mrs. Lunger remains positive, prayerful and optimistic. She is firmly rooted in her Christian faith and is loved and adored by not only her family and friends but her church family at Mt. Paran North. Svetlana is an avid reader and loves music. She is described by her husband Kevin, as upbeat and selfless. She often puts herself last and others first. Svetlana and Kevin will celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary in June.
On Thursday, April 12, 2012 Nyla began to experience severe stomach pain. She initially waived the pain off as indigestion or food poisoning. The next morning, she noticed that the pain had moved to the lower right quadrant of her stomach, where the appendix is located. Concerned, Ms. Blacknell began to look up the symptoms for appendicitis, and found the symptoms were exactly what she was experiencing. Nyla was immediately rushed to the hospital. A CAT scan later revealed that Nyla’s appendix had ruptured and an emergency surgery was performed the following day. Ms. Blacknell’s appendix had ruptured just prior to her making it to the hospital; she had made it just in the nick of time. The consummate professional she is, the first question Ms. Blacknell asked the doctor upon regaining consciousness from surgery was if she would be able to work on Monday. Much to her dismay, the answer was no. In fact; it would be six weeks before she would be able to return back to work.
Thirty-one year old Nyla Blacknell has always had a passion for dance. She began dancing at the tender age of 6. Dancing isn’t just something that she loves to do; it’s her livelihood; her bread and butter. She has translated her 25 year love affair with dance into a profession by teaching dance to others. Physically, Ms. Blacknell is a dynamo; she works out 3 to 5 days a week. She does it all: from yoga, kickboxing, step aerobics and her favorite Zumba! She also enjoys going to ballroom dance practice parties, and salsa socials. Nyla was well on her way to joining a professional ballroom performance group when the unthinkable happened.
After the surgery, she was unable to care for herself or even walk up and down the stairs for a few days. Thankfully, her family was able to step in and help. Nyla thought she was on the road to recovery. However, just 5 days after being released from the hospital, she had a follow-up appointment with her surgeon. It was during that follow-up appointment, that Nyla learned the news that would change her life forever: She had a malignant tumor on her colon. In fact, the reason for her appendix rupturing was because it was cancerous also. Ms. Blacknell’s doctor informed her that if the tumor were not removed immediately, it would spread and kill her. Now Nyla had fears to face, the reality that she had cancer and secondly she had no health insurance. How was she going to afford her life saving care? On May 3, 2012, Nyla underwent surgery to remove the tumor on her colon, she is currently recovering.
The Nancy Falco Fund is proud to announce Nyla Blacknell as its 2012 recipient.
(Photo by Mark Willis)
Shane’s birthday is on March 2, 2000, which would make him a Millennium baby. Shane has always been older than his age and continues to demonstrate a maturity that comes right when needed. As a little boy, Shane was never afraid to explore and persevere in the face of adversity.
Shane was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of nine. As his parents internally processed what was going to be a life-changing event, Shane faced it as he does with everything… complete bravery. Throughout the course of his treatment, Shane has received over three hundred “beads of Courage”. The beads represent the number of procedures that he has had. Over the course of his treatment, Shane forged ahead and went into remission three months after he was diagnosed. Shane will undergo treatment until the age of thirteen. After chemotherapy, Shane will have the port in his chest removed.
Currently, Shane is a bright fifth grader at Arbor Station Elementary School. One of his favorite subjects is mathematics and he looks forward to attending Chapel Hill Middle School in the fall. Outside of school Shane has shown a penchant for building. Other interests include love for animals, Star Wars, basketball, football and Karate.
Shane Update! (April 17, 2012)
Shane has had a pretty busy year since he was honored by Dancers Unite Against Cancer. Shane has started sixth grade at Chapel Hill Middle School enrolled in advanced math along with the rest of his core classes. He has been elected to Student Council, Junior Beta Club and has taken up playing the clarinet in band. He will be proceeding into the seventh grade for next year at Chapel Hill and we look forward to this.
Shane’s cancer treatment is still ongoing by his monthly infusions and spinal taps that he receives every three months. He is still the constantly brave little man that powers through the treatments with a smile even when the effects of the medication and chemotherapy have their adverse effects. This summer he will be partaking in a Disney cruise that will be provided by the “Make a Wish Foundation” He will also be a camper with “Camp Sunshine” this summer and will spend a week of fun in the woods.
We are all looking forward to attending the next Dancers Unite Against Cancer event and are happy to see the next recipient of your support. We want to thank you so much for your support and blessing. You all are true angels.
Dawn Graham – Porter
(photograph by Bobby Campbell)
Please join Dancers Unite Against Cancer and the Nancy Falco Fund in congratulating our 2010 fund recipient Tylor Flynn. The selection committee would like to thank all of the 2010 applicants for participating in this years’ event.
Prior to Tylor’s diagnose he was living on his own and enjoying the life of a vibrant 21 year old. In September of 2008, after becoming suddenly ill he was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer that affects the tissue of his liver, lung and bone.
According to his doctor, Tylor is one of the very few patients in the world with this condition. He now requires extensive care and supervision and has had to move back home with his family. As you can imagine this has put a significant financial and emotional strain on his family. Your donations will help Tylor continue his fight with cancer, he will now be able to better afford costly prescriptions and travel to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, were he also receives care.
The spirit of this young man amazed us all as he fought through pain and nausea to attend the June 6, 2010 Dancers Unite Against Cancer event.
In March of 2009, Joline Falco and her family found themselves dealing with the unimaginable, their dear mother Nancy Falco was diagnosed with stage four Pancreatic Cancer. As a rally of love and support for Nancy Falco; Joline along with the help of her family and friends founded Dancers Unite Against Cancer & The Nancy Falco Fund. This event was created to provide emotional and financial support to those struggling with cancer.
While Nancy Falco lost her battle with the disease and passed away two weeks before the event held in her honor, in her last days, the Dancers Unite initiative gave her a renewed sense of hope and love.
The proceeds from The Nancy Falco Fund & Dancers Unite Against Cancer ticket sales are donated to a local family that is currently battling cancer and the financial strains that cancer can bring.