by Pat Halpin-Murphy, President and Founder
The PA Breast Cancer Coalition is incredibly proud to announce its total contributions to researchers at Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute have now reached $800,000!
Our latest grant winner, Dr. Edward Gunther, will use his $50,000 prize in 2016 to study the growth of cells over time and to examine why certain cell subsets develop into breast cancer. Dr. Gunther hopes to find key information about breast cancer prevention and to eventually develop a test or screening tool with the information his team finds.
A major portion of our Breast Cancer Research Grants Initiative comes from taxpayer donations. This is where YOU have the opportunity to bring us closer to a cure. Look for Line 32 on your PA-40 state income tax form and choose Code A to donate your refund directly to Pennsylvania breast cancer researchers. The average donation is $7 and the PBCC has used those donations to award more than $3 million in grants to innovative projects across the state. This tax season, donate your refund to life-saving breast cancer research!
Join Union County survivors and the PA Breast Cancer Coalition March 23 for the first photo exhibit opening of 2016 at Bucknell University’s Elaine Langone Center beginning at 5:30pm. This will be the first time our exhibit goes on display in Union. Hear inspiring stories and learn the importance of annual screenings for women. Admission to the reception is free of charge. Want to go?
The exhibit features local breast cancer survivors who will share their stories and experiences as they faced the disease. The reception beginning at 5:30pm includes light refreshments and music. The full program is scheduled to start at 6:00pm, featuring local breast cancer survivors sharing their stories and experiences as they faced this disease. This exhibit will be open through April 3, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to see it.
For more information or to RSVP to the event, click here.
Melissa Rickard, Wayne County
Going through breast cancer taught me to accept what I cannot change. My grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s and passed away in 2009. That April, I found a lump while doing a breast self-exam. I had a biopsy and then, on my 37th birthday, the surgeon told me I had DCIS and an area of micro-invasion. I had a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction.
If I had waited until I was 40 to have a mammogram I probably wouldn’t be here. Cancer is non-discriminating and that includes by age. I’m a nurse practitioner at Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers, and I encourage my patients to talk with their provider about screenings.
Wayne County conducted a community assessment and one of the barriers it highlighted is transportation. We learned that women weren’t getting screened because of lack of transportation to medical care and many were being diagnosed at a later stage with a higher mortality rate. We held a community campaign called Putting on the Pink to raise funds for a mobile mammography van. There is funding now for the equipment and the next step is to fund the van itself.
I also represent Wayne County in the PA Breast Cancer Coalition’s photo exhibit, 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania and spoke at a recent exhibit opening at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
The biggest lesson I learned through my experience is that some of the things I thought were important just really weren’t. It was a tough adjustment, having surgeries and at the same time still being in the Reserves. But I’ve learned to prioritize and to be present. When I’m not working, I take time to enjoy gardening, exercising, and reading.
Do you shop on Amazon.com? Did you know you can arrange for Amazon to donate to the PBCC every time you make a purchase? AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support the PBCC every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.05% of the purchase price to the PBCC. It really adds up!
On your first visit to AmazonSmile, you need to select the PA Breast Cancer Coalition to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping. Amazon will remember that you’ve selected the PBCC, and then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation to our efforts.
The 6th Annual Ride 4 Life will be held Saturday, April 23 at the Shale Knoll Indoor Arena in Annville. This one of a kind barrel racing event offers courses for riders of all experience levels. Whether you are a rookie or a master, there is a course for everyone. Don’t miss it!
Started by breast cancer survivor Shelly Mix, Ride 4 Life has raised $13,000 over the years for the PA Breast Cancer Coalition. Shelly says she enjoys organizing the event every year because it’s something she feels passionate about.
“As a breast cancer survivor and an avid barrel racer, I wanted to find a way to return the kindness and generosity shown to me in my time of need twelve years ago. I encourage every mom, sister, daughter, wife and friend to get a mammogram – it saved my life! Please join us for this festive day to celebrate and remember!” – Shelly Mix
Click here for event details.
3D mammograms are FREE for women in Pennsylvania! If you are insured under PA law or if you are covered by Medicaid in PA, 3D mammograms are available at no cost to you.
Click here to download our free 3D mammogram information sheet.
Click here for frequently asked questions about 3D mammograms from the PA Insurance Commission.
Casting for Recovery is an organization that allows women who have, or have had, breast cancer to meet in a natural setting and learn the sport of fly fishing. The retreats offer an opportunity to meet new friends, exchange information, and have fun. Experience something new while enjoying beautiful surroundings within a safe and nurturing environment. Click here to learn more and to apply for YOUR retreat!
Casting For Recovery offers 2 ½ day fly fishing retreats at absolutely NO COST! In addition to retreats across the country, there are two in Pennsylvania: September 18-20th at Skytop Lodge in Skytop PA, and August 26-28th at The River Village, Spruce Creek PA. The deadlines for applying are July 10th for Skytop and June 17th for Spruce Creek.
Survivor Mary Waugaman, center, found comfort through a fishing program for survivors called Casting for Recovery. For more information, see this month’s Patient Advocacy tip!
Mary Waugaman, Indiana County
My mom had breast cancer in 1997 and her surgeon said, “When your daughter turns 35 I want her to get a baseline mammogram.” So two months before my 35th birthday in May 2006 my mom started nagging me. I scheduled the mammogram for July just to get her off my back. Luckily for me I turned 35 when I did and my mom kept nagging me because with that baseline mammogram I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
I had a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection and then chemo and radiation. Then in 2008 I had a recurrence. The recurrence was estrogen positive so they suggested removing my ovaries, which I did in January 2009.
I found out that I was very strong. I hadn’t known that about myself. I remember before my first chemo treatment my dad saying, “It’s OK to be scared, honey.” But I wasn’t scared. I got very sick with the chemo but I knew what I had to do and I did it. When the recurrence happened, I didn’t think twice. I knew I had to have a mastectomy. I felt like breast cancer was coming back for me and I wanted to stop it. When my ovaries were removed I went into instant menopause. Of course then that meant I was unable to have children. Cancer took that from me too. I found myself getting depressed. You go through all the medical stuff and do what you have to do and then when it’s over you say, “what just happened?”.
My job as front office supervisor at Pediatric Alliance is two hours away from where I live so I don’t have a lot of spare time to connect with people and do therapeutic things for myself. But in 2012 I went to a Casting for Recovery retreat. That was the most amazing experience of my life. Casting for Recovery is a program that offers 2 ½ day fly fishing retreats for women with breast cancer. There were so many women with different stories and while no one’s experience was just like mine, each one could relate to one part of my story and vice versa. I got back into nature and found peace and quiet. That was the beginning of the healing of my mind and soul that I didn’t even realize were damaged. It brought me back to the person I was before breast cancer. I still stay in touch with those women.
My best advice for others is to be your own advocate. If you don’t feel comfortable, it’s OK to get a second opinion. Talk to people, talk to your doctors, and don’t just do what you’re told unless you feel like you’re making the right decisions. And I share with them what someone told me … it’s OK to laugh and it’s OK to cry. As long as you have that little bit of laughter along with the crying.