The best medicine: Survivor spreads comfort, comedy to fellow cancer patients
by Madasyn Czebiniak
mczebiniak@annistonstar.com
Sep 21, 2013 | 2450 views |  0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When Venecia Butler was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, she sat in a metal chair outside during a lightning storm and talked with the Lord.

“I told God I’m not going to chemo, so he better strike me with lightning,” she said.

God did not strike her. He still had a plan for the married mother of two from Piedmont — to speak and encourage others who have cancer, she said. Since then Butler has spoken at more than 30 churches, schools, women’s conferences, youth groups and survivor banquets.

“I never dreamed I’d be speaking. A lot’s happened over a year,” Butler said. “I owe it to people to tell them to enjoy every moment of their life.”

Butler’s inspiring message has drawn many supporters to her cause. Raymond Matthews and Ashley Matthews Mobley, a father-daughter gospel duo from Centre, will be at The Solid Rock Cafe in Piedmont today from 6-9 p.m. for a benefit concert for Venecia's Foundation, a nonprofit Butler started to provide care and comfort to chemotherapy patients.

Butler’s next event will be awarding medals to winners of the first annual CRAP 5K Oct. 5 in Piedmont. Event organizer Brittany Wilson said she scheduled the race to fall on the first weekend of breast cancer awareness month. The 25-year-old Centre resident was moved to do something after hearing Butler speak at Solid Rock Cafe last year.

“I have a little boy who was six months old at the time. We went for a walk afterward and that’s what inspired me to do it,” Wilson said. “I’ve known her my whole life but this is the first thing I’ve ever done.”

Butler has undergone four battles with cancer in the last seven years. When she was first diagnosed with infiltrating ductular carcinoma in her left breast seven years ago, she underwent radiation and chemotherapy before undergoing her first mastectomy.

Five years later, cancer was found again — this time in her right breast. Butler opted for more chemotherapy and another mastectomy.

Butler details her journey in her autobiography, “I Need To Get Some Things Off My Chest.”

“I prayed and asked God what I was supposed to be doing,” Butler said. “I knew you don’t just go through cancer twice like I did and still be here. I knew I was supposed to write a book.”

Butler was diagnosed with cancer two more times, but she didn’t let it dampen her spirits. Laughing her worries away is what she said got her and her family through. Now she’s focused on helping others do the same.

Butler wants Venecia's Foundation to donate gift bags to people in chemotherapy. She’s said she’s already delivered four of the bags, which contain lip balm, hydrating socks, lotions and queasy drops — small things people don’t think about, but often need after chemo. They also contain gift cards to gas stations, restaurants and Starbucks, so caregivers have something to distract them while their loved one is being treated.

"I want to give everyone in Alabama going through cancer a bag," she said.

Butler also wants every chemotherapy chair in every oncology department to have a portable DVD player, headphones and endless supply of comedy movies.

“I don’t want people to sit there for six hours and think about their situation,” she said. “I want them to laugh because that’s what I did.”

In addition to events like today’s benefit concert and next month’s 5K, Butler raises funds for the foundation by selling T-shirts and hats that feature a pink ribbon emblazoned with the word “CRAP” — the meaning of which she says can be found in her book. More than 1,000 CRAP products have been sold around the world, but Butler knows she still has a long way to go.

“I may have written a book, but the foundation is my heart,” she said. “It’s just like going through cancer — I can’t do it by myself. I don’t want to do it all by myself.”

Staff Writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3553. On Twitter @Mczebiniak_star
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The best medicine: Survivor spreads comfort, comedy to fellow cancer patients by Madasyn Czebiniak
mczebiniak@annistonstar.com

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