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  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 13, Cindy Colangelo

    The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

    31 Days of Impact – Day 13, Cindy Colangelo

    “Do not look at statistics. You are not a statistic.”

    “Knowing that there is a chance that something might work and you might be able to contribute for the future, you do it.”

    “Always have hope. Action means that we’ve got to be our own advocates.”

    In 2001, I was the VP of Business Development for a busy real estate firm. I worked long hours, cared for my family and was an avid volunteer in my community. I was living life to the fullest and even participated in a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in the mid-80’s without realizing what a personal cause it would soon become. Little did I know that eventually I would be one of approximately 155,000 Americans who currently live with metastatic breast cancer.  It all began when during what should have been a routine mammogram, doctors discovered that I had developed DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ). Luckily, this is a common, non-invasive breast cancer and I was even able to continue working through a lumpectomy and radiation therapy. I was a breast cancer survivor and proud that I had been able to cross that hurdle and move on with my life. Eight years later, the nightmare began again.

    Once again, a routine mammogram revealed a lump, this time in my other breast. A biopsy confirmed that it was cancer, and the tumor was HER-2 positive. I was assured that since the cancer was caught early enough, the prognosis was promising. Not wanting to take any more chances however, I opted for a double mastectomy. After undergoing another round of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, I was told by my doctor, “Have a great life!” I had every intention of doing so.

    Not even a year after I had completed breast reconstruction surgeries, on New Year’s Eve, I found another lump. The thought that it could be cancer again never crossed my mind, yet when I saw my doctor’s face, I knew something was very wrong. I was horrified to learn that the cancer had returned and that it had now metastasized to my clavicle and lungs. I had mistakenly convinced myself that lightening never strikes twice (or in my case three times) so I wasn’t prepared to fully grasp the gravity of my situation. I was in a state of denial and insisted on a second opinion.

    The oncologist I met with was straightforward and told me, “Your treatment options are not good. This is not a sprint. This is going to be a marathon.” It was only then that the seriousness of my prognosis fully sunk in. Despite the shock I felt, I was determined to fight. I immediately signed up to participate in three clinical trials, including one for traztuzumab (TDM-1), an experimental drug thought to delay the progress of HER-2 positive breast cancer. When asked if I was scared about trying new drugs, all I could think was that even if there was a chance that something might work, that I might be able to contribute for the future, I had no choice but to do it. With the help of funding from organizations such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, women like me have the option of participating in groundbreaking research to find a true cure.

    More than ten years later, I am still going strong and providing support to other women who are going through similar experiences. When I hear that people have been living with metastatic disease for five, ten, or twenty years, I feel uplifted at how far we have come. I strongly believe that we should all be our own advocates. You need to look at all of your options, you need to be open and aware, and you need to educate yourself. Advocacy to me means offering people hope through my work at the Komen Dallas Affiliate Speaker’s Bureau and by participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day. The best advice I ever received was to remember not to look at statistics. I am not a statistic – I will always have hope and continue to fight.

    Read other impact stories.

  • Komen LA County’s “Designs for the Cure” Gala – Watch it Live!

    Susan G. Komen LA County Affiliate - Design for the Cure hosted by Lauren ConradAffiliates all across the country continue to find creative new ways to engage their communities in the fight against breast cancer and to raise funds to help end suffering from this disease.  For the second straight year, the Komen Los Angeles County Affiliate is presenting a “Designs for the Cure Gala,” which this year is hosted by fashion designer Lauren Conrad, star of the hit show The Hills.

    While the October 13 event should be an exciting evening for those in attendance, not everyone who is interested can be there at the Historic Millennium Biltmore in Downtown Los Angeles to experience it in person. That’s why the Komen Los Angeles County is inviting everyone to be an online guest by watching the live stream from their site.

    Online guests can “like” the Komen LA Facebook page to access the chat room during the live stream of the event to share stories and experiences, as well as their thoughts on the event.  You can also participate in the conversation on Twitter, by using the using the hashtag #DFTC2012.

    Don’t miss out on being part of an exciting event. There will be music and special appearances in addition to a display of fascinating fashions celebrating the beauty of our survivors.

    Check out the live feed below starting at 6p PST!

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 12, Dr. Beatrice Wiafe

    The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

    DR. BEATRICE WIAFE ADDAI, MD, PhD, GHANA – Advocate

    “We believe that in our own inimitable and special Ghanaian way, we could contribute to raising awareness of this disease, which affects us all in varying degrees — women, men and children.”

    “We have been working on demystifying such ideas about breast cancer among the population, especially women. We empower them with some basic knowledge about the disease, which is all aimed at early detection so as to reduce suffering and deaths from breast cancer.”

    “When it comes to breast cancer, the women of Ghana have been fed endless myths and misconceptions.”

    When it comes to breast cancer, the women of Ghana have been fed endless myths and misconceptions, thus preventing them from seeking early medical treatment. I knew that it was crucial for these women and men to be educated about breast cancer, encouraged to get screened and provided with treatment options. More than 2,000 Ghanaian women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, many in late stages of the disease. With help, I’ve made it a personal mission to change this.

    As a breast surgeon, consultant in breast cancer management and the Chief Executive Officer of the Peace and Love Hospitals in Accra and Kumasi, I saw firsthand what basic knowledge about the disease can do – which is all aimed at early detection to reduce the death rate of breast cancer patients. In October of 2002, I founded Breast Care International (BCI), a leading breast cancer awareness and research organization in Ghana, to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer programs throughout the country. Women are being taught how to do their own breast self-awareness, and they are given access to clinical screening, diagnosis, counseling, treatment and rehabilitation as far as breast cancer is concerned.

    After talking loudly and to enough people, I thought it was time to bring the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to Ghana, as we believe that in our own inimitable and special Ghanaian way, we could contribute to raising awareness of this disease, which affects us all in varying degrees – women, men and children. Komen has granted more than $462,000 in funding to Ghana for programs that educate Ghanaian women about breast cancer, encourage screening and provide treatment. Last year’s Komen race was filled with more than 12,000 walkers and runners who were all there for the same reason – to end breast cancer.

    We’ve come so far, but we’re not anywhere close to being done yet. Ignorance is killing our women and we have to fight it by empowering them with knowledge about the disease. My goal is to challenge the Ghanaian women to disabuse their minds of the misconceptions and to show them that we’re here to provide support, resources and access to care.  We will not stop until there is a cure for breast cancer.

    Read other impact stories.

  • Race for the Cure Recap – Charlotte, Florida Sun Coast, Houston, Lexington, Lubbock, Northeastern New York, Denver, Italia, Nebraska, Northern Nevada

    Across the globe, people were gathered in their pink this past weekend to support local breast health programs. Check out some of the highlights from the Races this past weekend.

    A beautiful day In Charlotte, NC, greeted more than 16,000 people for the Affiliate’s 16th annual Race. One of the many highlights was the attendance of Carolina Panther DeAngelo Williams who led a large team with #32 on their Race shirts. The Charlotte Observer features local survivor Amy Patwa, who is battling stage IV breast cancer, and her Race team of 70 individuals – “Team Patwa.” The event has raised more than $1.1 million so far, and fundraising is not done yet! Fox Charlotte and WBTV share highlights from the event.

    It was a busy Saturday morning in St. Petersburg last week for the 14th annual Florida Suncoast Race. After two days of torrential rains, the skies cleared over Vinoy Park and almost 6,000 gathered for a very memorable event. Some attendees even got to watch dolphins play along the Race route! WTSP shares some incredible memories from the event.

    The Houston Chronicle reports that nearly 30,000 people signed up for the Houston Race last Saturday. Along with remembering family and friends, participants also had fun. The scene included men in pink tutus, 13 members of the Houston Texans cheerleading squad on the family walk and much more. Culture Map Houston and Your Humble News covered the event.

    More than 5,500 participants gathered for the Komen Lexington Race on Saturday. Lexington Patch encourages locals to attend the event, and Kentucky.com shares the story of one a local breast cancer survivor, Sharon Givens. Givens, who was used to being the independent and collected one, was forced to face a breast cancer diagnosis herself back in May.

    Despite the cold weather in Lubbock, more than 6,000 people turned out for the Lubbock Race. Several local middle schools and high schools attended, along with a drum line leading in Survivors, and cheerleaders with pink pom-poms cheering all along the Race course! Attendees also enjoyed all kinds of food and samples to participants (including breakfast burritos made with pink tortillas) at the sponsor expo. KCBD was at the event, talking with attendees about their personal connection to the cause.

    Thousands of people in pink descended on Albany’s Washington Park on Saturday for the 18th annual Komen Northeastern New York Race. Your News Now Hudson Valley and The Albany Times-Union covered the event and also shared some great photos. The Executive Director of the Affiliate said the day went really smoothly and everyone had a wonderful time.

    The Komen Denver Race on Sunday brought in more than $3 million and nearly 40,000 people– one of the largest Komen Races in the country! The Denver Post covers the event, and highlights mother-daughter survivor duo, Catherine Meng and Ashlie Hill. Top News US and Denver Westword Blog share highlights and photos from the event.

    Across the Atlantic, Naples, Italy, was filled with passionate Komen supporters, as more than 7,000 gathered for the Komen Italia Race, including 400 survivors appropriately named “Donne in Rosa” (Ladies in Pink). The two days leading up to the event, the Affiliate hosted a Health Village where approx. 4,000 free health exams were performed and 15 suspected cases of breast cancer were detected.

    WOWT News 6 reports that downtown Omaha was turned pink on Sunday when more than 15,000 turned out for the 19th annual Komen Nebraska Race. Organizers reported that fundraising dollars from both the Kearny Race and the Omaha Race topped $270,000 in donations – funds that will make a critical impact for local women and men. LiveWellNebraska also shares highlights from the Race.

    A brisk, sunny day greeted enthusiastic runners and walkers to the 14th annual Northern Nevada Race at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.  Entertainment along the 5K course included rock bands, Hula and Tahitian dancers, Swami with Belly Dancers, Cirque du Soliel performers, martial arts demonstrations and Cure Leaders. Survivors marched across the stage, received a pink carnation, and a listened to a special song. The Reno Gazette-Journal reports that the event neared record attendance, and KTVN highlights the impact and importance of the Affiliate’s work.

    Thanks so much to everyone who attended these events – your support makes these important programs possible. We’re looking forward to hearing even more incredible Race tales this weekend, so stay tuned!

  • 31 Days of Impact – Day 11, Jeff Bennett

    The story of breast cancer is the story of people. Learn about Komen’s impact and work in the fight against breast cancer as told through the eyes of breast cancer survivors, researchers, community health workers and advocates. Read more stories.

     JEFF BENNETT, PORTLAND, MAINE – Breast Cancer Survivor, Advocate

    “Breast cancer knows no limits.”

    “Those of us who survive cancer should help others do the same.”

    “It’s time to realize that cancer is destructive and cruel. Every day, we lose 1,500 people in this country alone. Simply put – enough is enough. It’s time to make a change.”

    I had just finished playing golf with friends in July 2003 when I noticed something different with my chest. After not getting better for a few days, I scheduled an appointment with my doctor who recommended an ultrasound and mammogram. It was the biopsy and weeks of waiting when I knew something was not right – my doctor broke the news I never expected: “You have cancer.” I was stunned. Young, healthy, athletic, no family history; it made no sense. I was diagnosed with aggressive stage II breast cancer. My diagnosis was to say the least – unlikely.

    A team of doctors, scans, tests, more scans, more tests, surgeries, more surgeries, and chemotherapy treatments all come at you in a blur. Then 4-month follow-up visits for as far as you can see. I learned two things: that cancer knows no limits and I am one of the lucky ones. I’m lucky that I advocated for myself to get checked, lucky that I had access to quality care, and lucky that I had good health insurance. Sadly this is not the case for everyone.

    I immediately knew that I needed to become a breast cancer activist; I felt the “obligation of the cured” – the idea that those of us who survive cancer should help others do the same. I’ve turned to a lot of places to start to give back and one of the most important is through advocacy. Our voices are powerful and need to be heard.

    I started as a volunteer for breast cancer awareness by helping to organize the local Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Bangor, Maine. I’m also a board member for Komen Maine and their Public Policy Chair – I want to ensure that I have a stake at making a true difference in how cancer is treated in this country, and Komen allows me to do that.

    One of the other impactful things that I do is speak to groups of people about my experience, letting both men and women know that this could happen to them and it’s time to take the issue of cancer seriously. It’s time to realize that cancer is destructive and cruel. Every day, we lose 1,500 people in this country alone. Simply put – enough is enough. It’s time to make a change. Whether it’s raising public awareness, raising money, initiating projects or demanding leadership accountability, together we can make a difference. I urge men to get regular physicals so they understand their health and women to get screened every year. Join the Fight – advocate!

    Read other impact stories.