As soon as I turned 40 I went for an annual exam and mammogram and before I knew it, I was assigned to a breast cancer surgeon. I had chemo and radiation and chose lumpectomy. That was in 2008, it was stage 1 cancer and I’m happy to say I’m cancer free today.
Sometimes, as women, we love to be the caregiver and can have a hard time processing being helped. But you can’t go through this alone. For me, that support person was my sister-in-law. She came with me to all my medical appointments and she inspired me to keep a journal. The journal became a book, and when it became so popular it grew into a foundation. The book is called “Touch and Agree” and that’s also the name of the foundation.
I witnessed patients who had the same type treatment I did but whose insurance didn’t completely cover the cost of their medications. One of my children’s teachers shared with me that she had tapped out her savings paying for medications that her insurance didn’t cover. I knew there was a need for resources and the Touch N Agree Foundation helps women to cover those costs. I work as a senior customer service representative for Independence Blue Cross. I help people to understand their benefits and help them with their billing questions. I like to travel, especially to any place with a beach. My favorite spot is Cocoa Beach in Orlando, Florida.
Before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I never would have thought that I could go through something like that. I learned just how strong I really am.
by Pat Halpin-Murphy, President and Founder
After breast cancer surgery, about 20% of women develop some lymphedema, a painful chronic swelling of the arm following removal of lymph nodes. It can develop within days or many years after treatment. There is no known cure for lymphedema and treatment focuses on reducing the swelling and pain. Lymphedema bandages, sleeves, and compression garments offer the best relief. However, those products are not currently covered by Medicare or many insurers and are very costly for a woman who might need to pay out-of-pocket for them.
The PA Breast Cancer Coalition wants to help change that, and you can help make that change happen. If you are on Medicare and found they didn’t cover the garments and sleeves you needed, and were surprised to find that you had to pay for them out-of-pocket … we want to hear from you! Your personal story can make a difference in our efforts.
Tell your story to the PBCC at firstname.lastname@example.org, send a letter to PA Breast Cancer Coalition, 2397 Quentin Road, Suite B, Lebanon, PA 17042, or call 1-800-377-8828 x3020 to share your experiences with Medicare coverage for lymphedema supplies.
Rev your engines for the 5th Annual Jeeps, Jams 4 Jugs, on Saturday, June 4 at Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, in Shamokin PA. The event features a Show and Shine competition, a Jeep ride, games, music, food and more! It promises to be a fun time for the whole family, with an after party from 2-6 p.m.! Interested in the event?
Registration will be held Saturday, June 4 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. A Show and Shine competition will be held at 1:00 p.m. with judging occurring during the after party. A registration fee of $15.00 is required for entering one category, and an additional $10.00 for each category entered after. Show categories include best of show, best trail ready, best restoration and more. Each winner will receive a trophy and all proceeds of the event will directly benefit the PA Breast Cancer Coalition. Not a Jeep owner but still interested? Join us at 2:00 p.m. for a live DJ, vendors, food and children’s activities. Cost is simply a donation for your entrance fee. Check out all of the details on the Jeep, Jams 4 Jugs Facebook page here.
By Pat Halpin-Murphy
You can help find a cure for breast cancer! This tax season is quickly coming to an end, but there’s still time. Donate your tax refund to the PA Breast Cancer Coalition’s Refunds for Research program. Simply go to Line 32 of your state income tax form and choose code “A” to donate.
Thanks to taxpayer contributions, foundations and generous individuals, this year the PBCC awarded four $50,000 grants to help researchers in their mission to find the cause of and cure for breast cancer.
Watch our video highlighting our grant winners below.
The PBCC board, staff, and volunteers are deeply saddened by the passing of our friend, Cindy Spinello. Cindy was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2012, just four months after a mammogram showed normal results.
Due to her dense breast tissue, her mammogram was unable to find the stage 4 cancer that had already spread to her spine, stomach, ovaries and lymph nodes.
Cindy told us that her goals were to be thankful for each day, to enjoy every possible moment with her family and friends, and to prevent others and their families from the emotional and physical pain experienced with a later stage breast cancer diagnosis. She took the anger she felt and used it to energize her advocacy efforts. She stood up and she spoke out.
Cindy became the PBCC’s strongest advocate for change through the Breast Density Notification Act. With her help and support, we were able to have that legislation passed requiring mammography centers to notify women of their breast density.
Countless women across Pennsylvania will benefit from her determination to ensure that they will not face the same struggle she did. We will never forget Cindy’s strength, courage and hope. She was a good friend, a fierce fighter, and a true advocate.
Obesity can be a major cause of breast cancer in postmenopausal women, but omega-3 fatty acids have the potential to lower that risk. A study done by Andrea Manni, professor and division chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, Penn State College of Medicine, showed protection comes from the anti-inflammatory effects from the fatty acid.
Breast density is a breast cancer risk. Manni’s team, in addition to researchers from Emory University and Colorado State University examined the influence of prescription omega-3 supplements on breast density in women of various weights. It is believed that women who are of a higher breast density are more likely to develop breast cancer. Researchers found that increasing the level of omega-3 acids in blood was connected with reduced breast density in women bordering obesity with a body mass index above 29. With this research, a personalized approach to breast cancer prevention can be established.
Learn more about this study.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990, the PBCC had not yet been created. I learned about the PBCC last June when the traveling photo exhibit visited Perry County. I was really overwhelmed to see how many survivors were represented, and the program at the exhibit opening was very touching.
On that August morning in 1990, I was reading and reviewing my Sunday School lesson when I felt a lump in my breast. The next day I called my gynecologist and he made an appointment right away. A needle biopsy proved it to be cancer. I was in the middle of the Perry County Fair and my kids showed animals, so I said I can’t do anything now. The doctor was going on vacation the week after the fair so we scheduled surgery for the following week. I had a lumpectomy at first and then a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy.
My husband Glenn and I have a beef, cattle, and hog farm. We have two married daughters and four grandchildren. I did a lot of the farm work until our daughters got married and then our sons-in-law took over my jobs there. I taught school for 32 ½ years and I worked for Senator Jake Corman for seven years. Now I serve as Chairman of the Perry County Commissioners. I fill all my spare time with community things, volunteer efforts, serving on the board of Wings of Kindness, and anything that makes Perry County a better place to live and work.
Often someone will come by my office to ask advice for a friend or relative who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer. I tell them to remember that it’s not a death sentence. I believe that having a positive attitude is a major part of the survival process. And I believe a religious conviction is extremely important too.
The PBCC’s traveling photo exhibit 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania is now featured online! This educational work of art celebrates the life, courage, hope and dignity of women and families who have battled breast cancer. See the faces of the exhibit: Click here to see the new online display!
Just like the traveling exhibit, the website showcases at least one woman from each of the state’s 67 counties, including photographs, quotes and stories. The women featured on this website serve as a unique reminder of the emotional and physical toll breast cancer takes on them and their families. The exhibit encourages women to learn about and practice early detection through yearly mammograms, monthly breast self-exams, and annual clinical exams.
If you would like to host the traveling photo exhibit in your area, click here to fill out a request form.