Co-Chair, CT Chapter
In 2011 Michele was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After surgery and shortly after her chemotherapy treatments ended, she noticed that her right thigh felt strange. After questioning her oncologist on two occasions, she was finally told that it might be lymphedema. Throughout the 8 months of her cancer diagnosis and treatment, the word lymphedema was never mentioned by any medical professional, although 30-40% of gynecologic cancer survivors will develop lymphedema in their lower limbs. Distressed by the lack of information and solutions for lymphedema, as well as the poor prognosis, Michele set about educating herself and searching for quality treatment options, including Complete Decongestive Therapy, bandaging, and compression garments. LE&RN became her “go-to” place for education and resources. Although living with lymphedema has meant changes in her lifestyle, Michele decided that it would not prevent her from embarking on the dream adventure she and her husband shared. After retiring from her career in education, Michele and her husband lived aboard their boat, cruising to the Bahamas and back for 8 months. Twice. Michele admits that lymphedema made the cruising lifestyle particularly challenging, but she has no regrets! As a retired educator, Michele participates in Survivors Teaching Students: Saving Women’s Lives, a national program through the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. STS brings ovarian cancer survivors into medical education programs to educate future healthcare providers by sharing stories of diagnosis, treatment and survivorship, along with facts about ovarian cancer. At every presentation, she weaves in her story of lymphedema. Serving as Co-Chair for LE&RN’s Connecticut chapter is another match for Michele’s education background. Michele’s goals for the chapter are to increase understanding and awareness of lymphedema in the medical community and the public, and to provide quality resources, support and inspiration for other “lymphies.”
Jesse White-Fresé, M.A., L.P.C
Co-Chair, CT Chapter
Jesse White-Fresé focused the majority of her career in the nonprofit healthcare sector. Most recently, Jesse led the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers (CASBHC) for 11 years as Executive Director, a statewide advocacy organization. At CASBHC, Jesse provided oversight to a large network of the state’s School Based Health Centers (SBHCs), providing training, technical assistance, and legislative advocacy to ensure that children and adolescents achieve their fullest potential. She led the Centers in national quality improvement projects, provided annual conference training opportunities, promoted CASBHC in the public sector, and provided continuous advocacy to ensure that the quality and value of SBHCs were recognized in the state’s emerging healthcare reforms, and that all youth had access to health care.
Jesse was the Director of School Based Health Services for 10 years for the Community Health Center, Inc., and served as President of the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers from 1998 - 2000. She has been active in Connecticut’s Medical Assistance Program Oversight Council, was co-chair of the legislatively mandated School Based Health Center Advisory Board, and was appointed to the Children’s Behavioral Health Advisory Board and the Practice Transformation Taskforce of the State Innovation Model. Jesse is a member of the Board of Directors of the CT Oral Health Initiative and the national School Based Health Alliance.
Jesse holds a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling and is a Licensed Professional Counselor. She is living with lymphedema herself and is dedicated to advancing knowledge of lymphedema to the healthcare community as well as the general public. Jesse believes that a supportive network among those living with lymphedema strengthens us all.