The Emanuel Cancer Center kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness Month with plenty of pink Tuesday night, welcoming fighters, survivors and their family and friends to a night that celebrated resilience.
“It’s about awareness,” Emanuel Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Lani Dickinson said. “We’re celebrating people who have thrived both after having a diagnosis and while going through the treatment, but also making sure that people know early detection and education save lives.”
Around 200 women — and some men — put on their favorite pink top and gathered in the cancer center’s parking lot to bond over some bubbly, hors d’oeuvres and humor courtesy of survivor and comedian Jacki Kane at the Triple B Pink Event. At the end of the night, participants joined together for a picture forming a giant pink ribbon in support of Breast Cancer Awareness.
Among the group was Hazel Wade Gomes, who celebrated her 100th birthday on Monday and rejoiced over 35 years breast cancer free the very next night.
She was originally diagnosed while caring for her ill husband, she said, and had to forgo chemotherapy treatment to ensure she could still be by his side. Five years later, she had beat the disease and hasn’t seen a trace of it since.
“I think most of it was determination and just trying to do the best you could,” Wade Gomes said. “I came out of it…my doctor said, ‘You’re just a miracle woman.’”
One out of every eight women will develop breast cancer at some point in her lifetime, according to ECC, but if detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98 percent. Not only is ECC staying open late from 5 to 7 p.m. to accommodate busy, working women who would like to get mammograms, but also offers the screenings in 3D. This method has a 40 percent higher invasive cancer detection rate than conventional 2D mammography alone.
In addition to mammograms and on-site support, like social workers who provide comfort and activities such as chair yoga and massage therapy, events like Tuesday night’s provide a community for survivors and fighters alike, Dickinson said.
“They know they’re not alone,” she said. “When you’re around your sisterhood of people who have gone through it or supported somebody who has, they don’t have to explain a lot about what they’re feeling.”
The nurses at ECC know firsthand how support can help heal, cancer service line director Andrea Koplin said.
“I think the most important thing to get through (a diagnosis) is to reach out and accept help from others, ask questions and find who your support people are — whether they’re in your family, in your neighborhood or right in the doors of our cancer center,” Koplin said. “I am proud to work with such an amazing group of people who are dedicated to helping you through your journey and making sure you feel cared for along the way.”