“Breast cancer is not a death sentence anymore. People can survive.” — Judi Blue, breast cancer survivor
Judi Blue is a breast cancer survivor who proudly agreed to participate in a traveling photo exhibit titled 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania.
The exhibit, presented by the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, will be on display at Fox Chase Cancer Center through Sunday in the Women’s Cancer Center building.
“There’s always hope,” Blue said. “Breast cancer is not a death sentence anymore. People can survive.”
Funding for 67 Women came from the state Department of Health. The project celebrates the life, courage, hope and dignity of women and families who have battled breast cancer.
The tribute showcases at least one woman from each of the state’s 67 counties.
Fox Chase hosted an opening reception on Oct. 20. Participants and guests included Dr. Michael Seiden, the hospital’s president and CEO; Pat Halpin-Murphy, president and founder of the Ephrata-based Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition; Joanne Grossi, a regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dr. Lori Goldstein, associate professor and director of Fox Chase’s Naomi and Phil Lippincott Breast Evaluation Center; and state Rep. John Sabatina Jr.
Halpin-Murphy, who was diagnosed 20 years ago with stage-three breast cancer, founded the coalition in 1993. Back then, breast cancer was somewhat of a secret.
“Insurance companies didn’t cover the cost of mammograms,” she said of that era.
Thanks to the coalition, insurance companies started to cover mammograms for women age 50 and older, then 40 and older. “Now they’re thrilled to do it,” Halpin-Murphy said. “Not only does early detection save lives, it saves them money.”
Insurance companies, at the urging of the coalition and others, also started to cover the cost of reconstructive breast surgery within five years of the diagnosis. Now, the time limit has been removed.
The coalition offers breast cancer educational programming and outreach initiatives, advocates for legislation, provides research grants and sends “Friends Like Me” care packages to newly diagnosed women. Its motto is Find a cure for breast cancer now … so our daughters won’t have to.
Pennsylvania income tax forms include a check-off box, and taxpayers can direct their refunds to finding a cure for breast and cervical cancer.
“Every penny raised goes directly to researchers,” Halpin-Murphy said.
The exhibit features the names, pictures and counties of breast cancer survivors. It lists the age of diagnosis and recurrence of the cancer, along with a quote from the individual.
Blue was 47 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. Her mom had the disease 13 years earlier.
Today, she is a survivor. Each year, she gives herself a birthday present — a mammogram.
“Early detection is the key to survival,” she said.
Blue’s exhibit quote is, “Chemotherapy made me bald and radiation burned my skin but neither took my spirit. Attitude is everything. I am living proof. I survived because God’s plan for me was to be a brighter beacon to those in the storm.”
Statistics show that one in eight American women will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime.
Twenty-seven women every day are diagnosed with breast cancer in Pennsylvania. More than 2,200 women die of the disease in the state every year. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the state for women ages 25 to 54.
Three of four cases of breast cancer arise in women with no known risk factors.
“They need to get their mammograms,” Halpin-Murphy said. “The best tool to have is early detection, and that means mammograms.”
There are about 140,000 Pennsylvania women living with breast cancer, and more than 2.8 million in the United States.
“If you’re diagnosed early, the five-year survival rate is ninety-eight percent. If you’re diagnosed later, the five-year survival rate is twenty-three percent,” Halpin-Murphy said.
The exhibit is open to the public from noon to 8 p.m. through Sunday. It will move on to Southwest Regional Medical Center in Greene County in November and Altoona Regional at Station Medical Center in Blair County in December. ••
For more information about the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, call 1-800-377-8828 or visit www.pabreastcancer.org
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org