"People did me a good turn, and now my community needs that from me," Tish Griffin Satre said. In 1997, she was diagnosed with kidney, bladder, and cervical cancers, but twelve recurrences and nearly ten years later, Satre is a survivor who identified a need and stepped up to the plate to connect individuals in her community with cancer resources.
"We were the ones who were not expected to live, but did," Satre said, referring to the core group of cancer survivors who helped found Cancer Connection, a grass-roots organization established shortly after the American Cancer Society's Juneau office closed.
Now the president of Cancer Connection, Satre also co-founded the Women's Cancer Survival Retreat when a local doctor approached her with a vision: to provide a forum for women with cancer to talk candidly about their experiences. In 2005, the second consecutive retreat took place; once again, it was a success and an inspiration.
"You spend a lot of time telling your family you're going to be okay," Satre said. "It's good to be amongst people who understand and accept you; the laughter and tears that come from that kind of talk can heal. It's really the most empowering group of women."
She has lived out this philosophy through her various volunteer endeavors, most notably with the "Let's Talk" Buddy Program, which matches recently-diagnosed individuals with cancer survivors. Paired with a woman in stage-four cancer, Satre recalls, "It was one of the most powerful friendships I'd ever had. We were phone buddies, but I had insight into her no one else had. What a powerful thing to share with someone."
When she was informed that she'd been nominated as an American Red Cross Real Hero, Satre was startled.
"I thought, I haven't pulled anyone from the water. You would never define yourself as a hero, but how wonderful that someone would put you in that group. It's very humbling."
A knock on the door at 2 a.m. Jan. 9. Myrna Lang is abruptly awakened by night manager Farrell Swain. Outside her room, voices are yelling the word "fire!" As day manager, Lang is responsible for the guests at the Historic Sitka Hotel. A single, fiery night would demonstrate Lang's ability to rise above responsibility into the realm of heroism.
Lang awoke to a nightmare when Swain frantically pounded on her door less than three months ago. The hotel she both manages and called home was on fire. Lang scrambled from bed and fled her room wearing only her flip-flops and a sweatshirt. Using her master key, she threw open door after door, screaming at people to leave the building.
"There were five people I couldn't find right away," Lang remembers. "I kept envisioning stories of people in fires hiding in closets, or in the bathroom."
When the volunteer fire crew showed up on the scene, Lang was still searching the hotel for guests. Firefighters insisted that she leave the smoke-filled hallways and head for safety; once outside, Lang continued her search by consulting the guest roster for the hotel.
Immediately, she discovered that an Alaskan native elder with a hearing impairment was missing. Hurrying back into the burning hotel, Lang found the gentlemen and led him outside.
In the days that followed the fire, Lang continued her heroic deeds. She began to solicit donations personally ensured that each individual received necessities such as clothing and medication.