“You are not in this alone.”

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer October 18, 2013 11:16 pm

Pedoz Martin is the driving force behind the wheel of the bubblegum pink classic Ford truck parked outside CC’s Clothes for Cancer in Harbor.

The Brookings woman is there for any woman seeking advice, help, direction or even an understanding ear after they get a cancer diagnosis or struggle through the pain of treatment.

She understands their anxiety, having been “challenged by illness” since she was 16.

It wasn’t until she retired from the world of business development that she decided to open A Bridge to Wellness Foundation, the private, nonprofit foundation to help cancer patients in the community.

“She doesn’t get enough credit for what she does,” said Jim Burden, owner of the 1962 truck and a cancer survivor himself. “I believe in what she’s doing.”

What’s Martin has been doing for the past nine years is help women with cancer negotiate the unbelievable, obtain the best resources — even provide them with free wigs, mastectomy prostheses and support. She’s helped more than 1,500 women, sometimes up to three each day, from the Rogue River Valley to the coast to as far south as Eureka.

Many people diagnosed with cancer are initially in a state of disbelief.

“Even though you know there are a million people out there with it, have been diagnosed and survived it, you feel like the only one,” Martin said. “You are not in this alone.”

The upscale thrift store, tucked into the south corner of the South Coast Shopping Center in 979600 Shopping Center Drive in Harbor, provides the money that enables her to do so.

“I prayed every day, ‘If this is what I’m supposed to be doing, it’ll work out,’” she said. “We had nothing. First, we needed the merchandise. Then the volunteers. Then this; then that. And every time, it just showed up. We were operating on a wing and a prayer for nine years. And we just keep going.”

Customers donate and buy upscale jeans and blouses, jewelry, sportswear, shoes, evening wear, purses and accessories. All the proceeds go to help the clients who come through the doors — and not cancer research, as many people believe.

“One, two, three times a day, I serve a cancer client,” Martin said. “It’s really shocking. We’re such a small community.”

She’s not sure if cancer appears to be on the rise, or if people are merely more aware. She believes part of it is the increasingly polluted environment in which we live, and that people are living longer. That the Brookings area is a retirement community only adds to the statistics.

“The number one propensity for cancer is just getting older,” Martin said.

“The doctor said, ‘You’ve got cancer,’” Burden said. “And I flipped out then and there. It tears you apart. It’s spooky. I’ve got it on both sides of the family.”

He’s been clear now for four years.

“And when you get a clearing (from the doctor), you’re blessed with another day of life,” Martin said. “It’s, ‘Oh my God; I’m going to be all right for a little while longer.”

Martin said she couldn’t do the work she does were it not for the help of her 25 volunteers. They accept donated items, work the cashier, fold and hang clothing and organize the store.

And then another angel walked in the door, Martin said, when Burden proposed to raise money for the foundation by soliciting funds through sponsors; in return the business name can be placed on the truck.

“Jim was the answer to my prayer,” she said. “I’ve been blessed by so many people. They’re like angels stepping forward and blessing us with something. And this happens to us all the time.”

Burden got the idea to paint his truck pink, in honor of breast-cancer survivors — and in time for Breast Cancer Awareness Month — and told Martin he’d raise funds, drive it in local parades and park it in visible locations at various events. First, though, he needed to get it painted — Chad Bauer of Bauer Automotive said he’d do the work gratis — and solicited money for the bright pink paint.

“I pitched my ideas (to local business owners) and people were grabbing their checkbooks,” he said. “I’ve got 15, 16 — and I keep getting them.”

While Burden and others are helping her, she’s busy helping those who often don’t know what to do.

“If you know someone who was just diagnosed, if you’ve been just diagnosed, if you’re trying to survive it, if you need a referral,” Martin said. “For 10 years, I never went anywhere where someone wasn’t poking me, prodding me, making me fill out a form. How can we help you get through this? We are a neutral party to talk to. We have no (economic) vested interest in the outcome.”