Like many Rappahannock residents, we first met Ester Settle at the store. It was hard to fill the car with gasoline without also filling the children with snacks. And the vehicle you bought from Settle’s was not official until Ester had led you through the paperwork. It didn’t take her long to find out that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994 and that my husband could write good letters to the Rappahannock News. Mike soon found himself writing publicity for the new Rappahannock Relay for Life — one simply did not say no to Ester Settle. Because I was still working in the D.C. area, I got a deferment from service in Ester’s war on cancer until my retirement in in 1999.
But when I think of Ester’s contributions, it is not nearly so much about the money she raised as it is her commitment to personal assistance to cancer patients. When I retired, I joined her in the “Reach to Recovery” program. “Reach” was a support program for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and the foot soldiers were recovered breast cancer patients. We brought gifts — a breast prosthesis and bra for a mastectomy patient, American Cancer Society leaflets, a rope and ball for exercising and information about local resources. But, most importantly, we presented a healthy, friendly and experienced face to patients with serious and personal non-medical questions about surviving breast cancer and returning to a normal life. Ester knew everyone in the county who had breast cancer and invited them to her home to celebrate Christmas and their survival.
One of her disappointments when she had her recurrence was that she was no longer able to be a Reach volunteer. Ester often thought of others before she thought of herself. She is a reminder that we are still losing too many in the battle but her fight was not only to raise money to develop more weapons in the war, it was also to help those in our community who needed help in their personal fight against cancer.