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Think Pink
Local resident organizes Portraits of Hope to benefit cancer survivors
The drive to survive: Trish Baker had her priorities in life whipped around when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer. Now a four-year survivor, she is a one of the faces featured in the Portraits of Hope event, which will take place Friday in downtown Covington
In 31 years, Trish Baker never missed work for illness, but that changed in 2006 when she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer.

Everything changed.

"It's kind of a humbling experience," said the Rockdale resident.

Eight powerful drugs were pumped into her body, followed with radiation treatment and then another drug.

Overall, she was out from October 2006 through May 2007 on medical leave from her career in customer services with Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. in Lithonia.

That Aug. 1, she retired.

Work, which had been such an important part of life for much of her adult life, just wasn't as important anymore. "It changes priorities," she said.

Baker, a four-year cancer survivor, now devotes hours to working with and helping other breast cancer survivors and their families in support groups and through other programs offered through Newton Medical Center's Women's Diagnostic Center and Volunteer Services.

Her photo portrait and story is one of some 55 that will be featured Friday in the Portraits of Hope, part of the Pink on the Square event from 5 to 7 p.m. in downtown Covington to mark the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The large photo portraits and the accompanying text that details each woman's story has had a profound impact, according to Kay Goff, an event organizer and a seven-year breast cancer survivor.

"It's been the most important tool to bring awareness (regarding) breast cancer," she said.

The portraits are displayed by downtown merchants. A tent will be set up on the square for an informal kickoff ceremony. Cake and refreshments will be served and a printed guide will be available marking where each portrait will be on display.

The first portrait series was staged about six years ago and featured 12 survivors, Goff said.

A major part of the healing process for Baker and other breast cancer patients is the camaraderie and support they give to one another. Other patients undergoing treatment and the staff and doctors become a second family.

"We support each other, have a good time and try to stay positive," she said.

Baker is now an advocate.

"I never would have talked with people before, and now it's a passion," she said. "Once you can help someone else, you're a survivor."