LAGRANGEVILLE, N.Y. -- Four years ago, there were few places a woman with cervical cancer could find support anywhere, including Dutchess County.
Today, an organization called Julie's Cause provides referrals and assistance with medical and living expenses, personal care, and even child care for women undergoing treatment for cervical cancer.
It was founded in honor of Julie Latvis Segnit, of Wallkill, a married mother of two who died in 2014 from cervical cancer.
Julie's Cause also is developing programs that give guidance, advice, mentoring and education support to those who are affected by any type of cervical cancer or HPV-related cancer, in the Hudson Valley.
The organization also partners with others to raise money at such events as a motorcycle run next year, said its founder, Susan St. Germain, of LaGrangeville.
St. Germain and Segnit had become friends in an online support group when both women were diagnosed with the same cancer in 2012.
When Segnit found out she had 1B2 cervical cancer in August , she was sent to Albany Medical Center, where she had a hysterectomy. After all pathology reports came back, she was told she was cancer free, but in February 2013, the cancer returned.
Segnit found herself driving back and forth to different medical facilities for radiation, chemotherapy, blood transfusions, surgery, pain management and more, putting a strain on her and her family emotionally, physically and financially.
She was admitted to Vassar Brothers Medical Center in January 2014, shortly after her 38th birthday, and was told there was nothing more they could do for her. She moved into the Kaplin Hospice Home in Newburgh and died Feb. 28, 2014.
Cervical cancer does not discriminate. Any woman can get it at any age. It affects entire families. These are grim facts St. Germain wants people to know about the illness that took her friend's life, when she was just 38.
St. Germain was 47 when she first received news of her cancer and the mother of a son, 24.
"I was totally shocked. Everything was breast cancer and there was nobody to talk to, so I joined an online support group," she said
"Julie became the first person who reached out to me. She was younger than me, but we'd both gone to Arlington High School. She lived on the other side of the river in Wallkill," St. Germain added.
The friends both had surgery, within four weeks of each other. St. Germain underwent a radical hysterectomy and Segnit a hysterectomy.
"Julie kept her ovaries. Unfortunately, her cancer came back with a vengeance and attacked her ovaries. She passed away in February, 2014, not even two years from first being diagnosed." She was 38.
"During that time I watched her family struggle financially; the hardships they had. There were a lot of co-pays and extra, added expenses of going back and forth to the big cities for treatment; day care for her girls. Their father had to work and mommy was struggling every day," St. Germain said.
On a visit at the hospice, St. Germain and Segnit talked about how there was nothing out there for women going through cervical cancer.
"She looked at me. 'Whatever you do, use me as your poster person.' I said, 'You will let me tell your story?' And she said, 'Absolutely, if it will help someone else.' "
After she died, St. Germain contacted Segnit's husband to talk about starting the organization.
"He said, 'I'm all for it.' "
Today, Julie's husband, Paul Segnit Jr., a vice president in the insurance industry, and a restaurant general manager, serves on the board, along with several doctors, a chiropractor and others.
The main focus is to educate people," St. Germain said.
"More than half the world's sexually active population is invected with the HP virus, both men and women."
For more information or to contribute to Julie's Cause, click here.
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