A message of hope

Pat Halpin-Murphy, founder and pres­id­ent of the Pennsylvania Breast Can­cer Co­ali­tion, speaks with state Rep. John Sabat­ina dur­ing the open­ing re­cep­tion of 67 Wo­men, 67 Counties: Fa­cing Breast Can­cer in Pennsylvania.

“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 twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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