When you meet student, Denise Carmant, you are quickly attracted to her smile, her grace, and her uplifting spirit. When you get to know Denise, you realize that she’s been through things that many could never grasp — experiences that have enhanced her appreciation of each day.
Denise, is a cancer survivor. Her journey, however, has been nothing short of miraculous, and can be attributed to her enduring faith and strong positive power. This year, Denise will share her story at the 2017 Relay For Life of Polk State College event happening Friday, March 10, from 5:30-10:30 p.m. at the Winter Haven Campus.
Carmant’s journey began about 3 years ago when a routine appointment indicated a mass on her left breast. She underwent a series of tests and was notified months later that the mass was indeed, breast cancer. Carmant, an education baccalaureate student at Polk State, was blindsided with a diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer. A mother of 3 and the caretaker of her own mother, Carmant was initially confused about the diagnosis— after all, she led a healthy, active lifestyle. When her physicians began discussing surgery and chemotherapy, she knew the diagnosis was in fact, very real.
With surgery and chemotherapy scheduled, Carmant’s positive outlook and deep faith kept her engaged in the activities she thoroughly enjoyed— school, her family, and her work.
During her treatment, chemotherapy did hit hard.
“I lost weight and was very weak. My hair became very thin and I lost most of it,” Carmant said. But she maintained a positive attitude.
“I never doubted,” she said. “I know God was with me and I knew that I could fight this. I just wanted to enjoy, every, single day regardless of the pain.”
Passionate about education, Carmant pushed herself, albeit slowly, to continue the pursuit of her education degree.
“I love kids,” she noted. “I want to help kids and be a strong teacher and mentor. Giving up my schooling was never an option.”
It was this passion and zest for life that caught the attention of Melissa LaRock, Executive Assistant to Vice President of Administration/CFO. LaRock met Denise by chance when she approached LaRock while on her my way back from a Relay For Life Kick Off meeting. At the time, LaRock was holding a sign that read “Join us in the Fight.” Curious and interested, Carmant replied to LaRock with a simple mantra— “I want to fight.” Carmant shared her story with LaRock and it was evident that hers was a story to share. LaRock invited Carmant to participate as the Relay For Life Student Survivor.
“Denise is a lovely and happy person,” LaRock said. “If you take a moment to hear her story, if you can open your heart and listen, you do hear the joy of her story and her love of God, which is evident in any small moment with her.”
LaRock, a dedicated advocate and participant in the Relay For Life program for many years, started a Polk Community College team in 2006 as part of the Relay For Life of Winter Haven. She also served as an organizer and Event Lead for the Relay For Life of Winter Haven. In 2016, she decided to try hosting a college relay at the Polk State Winter Haven campus. After a successful event, under the Relay For Life of Winter Haven, this year, Polk State will have its own relay event.
This year, 14 teams will participate which includes faculty, staff and students. Among the highlights of the event are the second annual “Men In Heels” race and the “Lip Sync Battle, featuring Polk State faculty and staff. There is also a student “Lip Sync Battle.” The evening will also include an opening ceremony, a survivor/caregiver dinner, a luminaria ceremony, games, food, entertainment and a closing ceremony. Carmant will not only serve as the keynote speaker at the Opening Ceremony, but she will also share her musical talent during the Luminaria Ceremony when she will sing “Ne Crains Rein Je T’Aime, a french hymn meaning do not fear anything, I love you. Her daughter, Ernestine Carmant will also share her musical talents by singing the national anthem during the opening ceremony.
Today, Carmant is cancer free, but remains vigilant of her health and activity. Every day, for her, is a new day filled with hope and inspiration. She lives encouraging her family and friends to appreciate each moment. Her words of wisdom, “Do not lose faith,” she says. “Stay positive, live well, keep your spirit engaged and inspired. God can do mighty things; I am proof of that.”