By Jason Wheeler, Flagler County Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, June 26, 2015, 4:31 PM
Dr. Karen Toppi gathered at the beach Friday morning with dozens of other people whose lives have been touched by cancer, a disease which is one of the leading causes of death in Flagler County.
A gynecologist in Palm Coast, she founded the “Hope to Help Foundation,” as a way to help her patients through their cancer battles.
And then she joined that battle herself, telling us “it is the toughest thing I ever did in my life but I also found peace and I found, for me it was a gift.”
Dr. Toppi said she considered herself a good doctor before her diagnosis. But now, she can empathize with other women because she has walked in their shoes.
On this late Friday morning, armed with beach pails and shovels, supporters wrote messages scrawled in the sand.
Some just wrote the word “cancer.”
And then, after a short prayer they walked into the ocean to gather water to “wash cancer away.”
Dr. Catherine Powers is a clinical psychologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
She is also a cancer survivor and said this is more than just symbolism.
“It literally allows you to relax and just let go,” Dr. Powers said. She added “it can change the cortisol levels, you know, a biological aspect too. It’s just so meaningful and so powerful.”
For Dr. Toppi, she said it may be a symbolic action, but it’s what many of those who gathered on the sand needed to do.
“To be able to take our words and give them back to the sea and letting go? That’s what it’s all about,” she said.
This was part of a first-ever educational event for the foundation, which tries to give patient’s options from both western and eastern medicine recognizing everyone needs their own course of treatment.
Dr. Toppi’s plan for next year’s celebration? She wants everyone in the area whose life has been touched by cancer to come out. If that happens, she may need a bigger beach.