Elmira native compiles cancer book - Catholic Courier

Elmira native compiles cancer book

As cancer beset one family member and friend after another, Julie Valeant Yenichek became increasingly determined to make a difference.

The 30-year-old Elmira native began by volunteering at the American Cancer Society in Charlotte, N.C. That led to full-time work for five years with the agency, doing fundraising and special events. More recently, Yenichek completed a book full of stirring stories from people who have courageously grappled with — and, in many cases, overcome — cancer.

Make Your Own Miracle: Surviving Cancer, released in November 2004, contains contributions a la Chicken Soup for the Soul from 55 people across the country. Yenichek obtained all the anecdotes and also compiled a resource section at the end of the book, listing various cancer organizations and recommended books, magazines and tapes.

Yenichek said the project required many hours of tracking people down who would be willing to share their stories. Ironically, she didn’t obtain any of her contacts through her job with the American Cancer Society; Yenichek left in November 2002 for her current position as a public-relations manager with Lowe’s Corp. in Charlotte.

“Basically it was tremendous amount of work over two years — everything from reading the coping magazines to online cancer chat rooms,” she said. “A lot of the Web sites had survivor stories. I just read and read and read and read and read.”

The result is a long series of people sharing poignant details about being diagnosed with cancer, the medical treatments they sought and the ways in which they coped. Many emphasized their religious beliefs as a key part of their journey.

Yenichek said that she kept the focus upbeat and hopeful, based on her experience with cancer patients. “They wanted to hear more success stories,” she explained. “All you want to hear is somebody to tell you it’s going to be OK.”

This message is especially powerful if it comes from somebody who has survived the disease. “People want to make a connection with someone else that has been through what they’ve been through,” Yenichek said. “They’re extremely scared and petrified, and if somebody can just give you a little glimpse of hope, it goes a long way. Your attitude is so important — whether you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, or if your house has burned down.”

Yenichek had met the other two authors of Make Your Own Miracle — Paul Huff and his wife, Kim — through their volunteer work with the American Cancer Society. Paul Huff, a motivational speaker who is the book’s main credited author, lost his first wife, Janice, to cancer in 1987. The book is self-published, with Yenichek and the Huffs splitting expenses and profits. Yenichek plans to donate a portion of her earnings to cancer-related causes.

Yenichek said Make Your Own Miracle has been well-received thus far, with approximately 500 copies having been sold in 46 states. The book, with a list price of $14.95, may be obtained at some Elmira-area book dealers as well as online at Amazon.com. Further information can be obtained by going to makeyourownmiracle.com.

Yenichek, a native of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, is a 1993 graduate of Notre Dame High School. She went on to graduate from Dayton University with a degree in communications. She and her husband, Tony, have been married for 1 {1/2} years. Though she no longer works for the American Cancer Society, Yenichek remains a volunteer with the organization.

No matter how well Make Your Own Miracle sells, Yenichek said she prefers for the focus to be not on her, but on the people between the book’s covers and their readers.

“All I wanted to do is give people diagnosed with cancer a little hope,” she said.

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