“Save Second Base” with the Wilmington Blue Rocks was a Great Success!

On Wednesday, July 12th, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition held its annual breast cancer awareness game with the Wilmington Blue Rocks. There are so many great things to talk about from the game. To start, the Blue Rocks played the Lynchburg Hillcats at home and WON 5 to 4! The game went 13 innings! 

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Not only was the game a win for the Blue Rocks, but it was also a victory for our breast cancer survivors! Tickets were free for survivors and the Blue Rocks allowed them to come onto the field for a High Five Tunnel with the players before the game. A two-time survivor, Cindy, even brought her daughter Liorha to throw the first pitch!

It was a family friendly event that made everyone feel good! There were raffles and auctions for the uniforms the Blue Rocks were wearing. What made these jerseys special was that the players wore pink. People may have also seen the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition table selling merchandise throughout the night. And our friends at WJBR came out with special prizes and games for the occasion.

All around the game was amazing and a success for so many reasons:

  • Our section was rocking pink to show support
  • It was fun to watch the game and see the Blue Rocks win
  • Survivors Recognition was in full force
  • It was for kids and adults alike and everyone had a great time

Thank you so much for coming out to this wonderful event! We hope you will plan to join us again next year! Check our event schedule for more happening in your neighborhood!

Hispanic Heritage Month Featuring: Maria Lopez

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition is honoring Hispanic Survivor: Maria Lopez!

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Maria Lopez was born in Chiapas, Mexico. Married with 3 children, she has been living in Millsboro, DE for the past 14 years. She was always up to date with her annual mammogram, but for 2 years she felt a lump that was never detected. After insisting to her doctor that she felt a lump on her left breast and asking for additional screenings, Maria was diagnosed with an aggressive type of breast cancer in 2014 . It was stage 4.

At the beginning of her breast cancer journey, Maria had lot of side effects. She felt so much pain and weakness. She went through 17 sessions of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Nowadays, Maria continues to visit her doctor every 6 months. She is a homemaker and lives with her husband and daughter Priscilla (pictured above).

During Hispanic Heritage Month and Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Maria encourages other Hispanic women to screen early, have faith in God, and keep fighting for those surviving the disease. She wants women to find out about their family history for breast cancer by filling out the DBCC’s Family Health History Tree. Maria’s aunt had stomach cancer so she knows some cancer runs in her family.

Maria also offers encouragement to other women who are beginning their breast cancer journey. She says, “You are going to fight this, and you will come out victorious!” She also thanks God and her oncology doctor for her recovery and surviving breast cancer. In her own words she said, “Christ gives me strength.”

 

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Maria Lopez nació en Chiapas, México. Casada y con tres hijos, Maria ha vivido en Millsboro, DE por los últimos 14 años. Como siempre, ella estaba al tanto con su mamografía anual pero por dos años sentía una bolita que nunca fue detectada durante su revisión. Maria fue diagnosticada con un tipo de cáncer de seno muy agresivo en el 2014 después de insistirle a su doctor en someterse a pruebas adicionales ya que sentía un bulto en su seno izquierdo.

Durante el inicio de su tratamiento, Maria lo describe como doloroso, con muchos síntomas y con una debilidad muy fuerte. Se sometió a 17 sesiones de quimioterapia y radioterapia cuando el cáncer fue detectado en etapa 4. Actualmente, Maria continua visitando a su doctor cada 6 meses, es ama de casa y vive con su esposo y su hija Priscila (en la foto).

Durante el mes de la Herencia Hispana y el mes de la Sensibilización del Cáncer de Seno, Maria invita a otras mujeres Hispanas que se sometan a pruebas de cáncer a tiempo, tengan fe en Dios y que sigan luchando las personas que han sido diagnosticadas con esta enfermedad. La tía de Maria padeció de cáncer en el estómago y quiere que otras mujeres también usen el Árbol Genealógico de la Salud para así aprender sobre las enfermedades que corren en la familia.

Así mismo, Maria también ofrece apoyo a esas mujeres pasando por la misma situación. Les dice “¡Van a vencer la enfermedad, van a salir victoriosas!”. También agradece a Dios y su oncólogo por su mejoramiento y recuperación en sobrevivir esta enfermedad, en sus propias palabras ella dice “Cristo me fortalece”.

Do More 24 … with DBCC and United Way!

Do you want to create positive change throughout the state of Delaware? If yes, join us for Do More 24!

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Do More 24 is Delaware’s first community day of giving campaign. This online fundraiser will begin at 12:01 AM and end at 11:59 PM on June 2nd. The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition is participating in the Do More 24 Delaware campaign, which is powered by United Way of Delaware. The innovative fundraiser will bring together more than 250 nonprofits that serve the entire state. We hope you will join us for Do More 24 Delaware by supporting our organization. Here are some ways you can help:
  1. Donate. On June 2nd, go to https://domore24delaware.com/npos/delaware-breast-cancer-coalition
  2. Spread the word. Ask your friends and family to join you in creating positive change on June 2nd.
  3. Share our stories. Visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and help us spread the word about donating to the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition on June 2 for Do More 24!
If you are thinking to yourself.. there are so many worthwhile nonprofits in Delaware to help on June 2 …why should I give to DBCC? We thought you might ask that! Instead of us telling you about all the great local programs and services we provide to the community, it might be helpful to hear from our friend and breast cancer survivor, Lori Holveck, pictured below with her daughter and son.

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Breast Cancer Update Was Great Success

Just about 300 people attended this year’s 19th Annual Breast Cancer Update held at Dover Downs Hotel and Rollins Conference Center on April 13. This year’s theme, Personalized Medicine: Not Your Grandmother’s Breast Cancer, focused on new methods of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and more personalized options.

The morning sessions included informative talks about advances in diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer from Kevin Fox, M.D., Director, Rena Rowan Breast Cancer and Mariann T. and Robert J. MacDonald Professor in Breast Cancer Care Excellence, University of Pennsylvania, a look at what kind of research is being done here in Delaware by Jennifer Sims-Mourtada, Ph.D., Senior Clinical Scientist, Helen F Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care Health System, and a look at complementary medicine including naturopathic practices by Marie Winters, ND, FABNO, Manager of Naturopathic Medicine, Cancer Treatment Centers of America and spirituality by Drew Angus, DMin, Director of Spiritual Outreach, Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

New this year was a look at breast reconstruction and nipple recreation. Erik Hoy, M.D., Plastic Surgeon, Premier Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery and Mandy Sauler, CPCP, Micropigmentation Specialist, Owner, CosMed Tattoo, LLC, both spoke about reconstruction after surgery and nipple recreation via tattooing. If you liked Mandy’s talk, you might enjoy this short video from Penn Medicine as well.IMG_9535

The day ended with a survivor panel with three local survivors sharing their stories, Barbie Andrews, Cheris Reed, and Holly Thatcher. This is always one of the most touching parts of the day and a favorite of many attendees!

Our expert panel of moderators included Owen Thomas, M.D., Radiation Oncology, Delmarva Radiation Services, Tunnell Cancer Center; Sara Gavenonis, M.D., Diagnostic Radiologist, Christiana Care Health System; Clara Higgins, D.O., FACOS, Trauma Medical Director, Beebe Healthcare; and Wendy Newell, M.D. FACS, General Surgeon, Wolf Creek Surgeons.

DBCC would like to thank the planning committee, chaired by board members Nanci Mayer-Mihalski and Wilma Yu, along with board members Tynetta Brown, Sue Bowlby, Patti Key, Beth Selsor, Linda Powell, Mary McLaughlin, Rena Howard, Donna Stinson, Ciro Poppiti, Amy Norgate, Dr. Clara Higgins, Dr. Wendy Newell  and all the sponsors, staff, volunteers, vendors, and all those who attended!

See you next year for the 20th Annual Breast Cancer Update – Wednesday, April 26, 2017!

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In honor of Black History Month: Meet Natasha Simms

African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than any other race and the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition does not like this statistic!!! This February in honor of Black History Month, the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition is running a special “Planting the S.E.E.D. to Health and History” campaign. Visit our website to download a free Family Health History Tree and learn about your family health history and risk factors that may affect you. As a special part of the campaign, we’d like to introduce you to some local African American Breast Cancer survivors throughout the month to share their stories. Without further ado, meet Natasha Simms. She is a breast cancer survivor and friend of DBCC filled with an inspirational message of hope, courage, wisdom, and survivorship in the excerpt below.

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Natasha Simms was 31 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Natasha began screening for breast cancer at a young age, because her twin sister Lynette (featured last week on the blog) was diagnosed just a short while before her. She had a clean mammogram in August 2012 and in September, Natasha felt a lump. Her sister, Lynette, urged her to visit the doctor.

Natasha’s doctor did a biopsy and it came back as breast cancer. She also found out she was BRCA1 positive. She had 3 small tumors and the doctor recommended a mastectomy as the first step. The surgery was scheduled for December. Within that time the tumor had grown 10 times its size and spread to her lymph nodes. So the date of her surgery, Natasha was told she needed emergency chemotherapy. After the second chemotherapy treatment her tumor shrunk back down to its original size and after three more treatments she did the surgery. It was a grueling 8 hours – a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction and 17 lymph nodes removed. Recovery was tough. Besides her eyebrows, she lost all her hair and her palms and fingers were black. She had four more rounds of chemotherapy and had some blood transfusions in between. 28 rounds of radiation later, Natasha was declared cancer free.

Because she was young, Natasha was told her cancer was more aggressive. That is why her tumors grew so quickly. But she was also told the treatment worked very well because she was her body was strong to fight back.

Natasha says watching her sister go through cancer made her stronger on her journey. She wasn’t scared of dying because she saw her sister survive and thrive. She says her biggest concerns were shallow thoughts like, “I’m young, I don’t have any breasts, I don’t have any hair, I don’t have a husband”, and wondering why it happened to her. But after her cancer, Natasha says the beauty inside her came out. She didn’t fall back on her physical looks. She appreciated the parts of her body that were functioning and supporting her, like her legs for helping her walk, and her eyes for helping her see.

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On the day of her diagnosis, Natasha recalls a rainbow in the sky. Her sister Lynette told her that was God’s promise that she wasn’t going to die from the cancer. Natasha gained strength and encouragement like this from her sister throughout her journey. She also found comfort in being able to call someone like Lois at the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and talk about what she was going through and all the challenges in her life.

Natasha (and Lynette) are the only ones from a family of 12 to have breast cancer. But Natasha says she had a grandmother that died of ovarian cancer and an uncle who died of prostate cancer. So she has urged her cousins to get their genetic testing. Natasha has 4 children and once they are 18 they will go through genetic testing. Her family and her children are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer due to their family history.

There are still after effects of the cancer that Natasha faces all the time but overall, she feels fortunate that her health is fine. After speaking to her doctor she had a complete hysterectomy to reduce her risk of developing ovarian cancer. And because the genetic make up of her cancer she cannot take any estrogen hormone replacements. So she is reading, learning techniques and managing the best she can. She has started to meditate, write books, and hosts a radio and online web show to talk about issues.

For someone who might be newly diagnosed and reading Natasha’s story, she has some words of wisdom, “Life is not over when you are diagnosed with breast cancer. This is just a test to show how strong you really are. Pull your strength from this. Be positive. Keep a smile.”

For any African American women reading this during black history month, Natasha has a special message. In general, we don’t like to go to the doctors. Doctors always have bad news. But you need to be familiar with how your body feels and if anything doesn’t feel right – go to the doctor. And most importantly, listen to the doctor. It might just save your life.”

 

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In honor of Black History Month: Meet Lynette Shannon

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African American women are more likely to die of breast cancer than any other race and the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition does not like this statistic!!! This February in honor of Black History Month, the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition is running a special “Planting the S.E.E.D. to Health and History” campaign. Visit our website to download a free Family Health History Tree and learn about your family health history and risk factors that may affect you. As a special part of the campaign, we’d like to introduce you to some local African American Breast Cancer survivors throughout the month to share their stories. Without further ado, meet Lynette Shannon. She is a breast cancer survivor and friend of DBCC filled with an inspirational message of hope, courage, wisdom, and survivorship in the Q&A below.

Question: Tell me a little bit about your breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. What was the most difficult for you?

Answer: Well at the age 27 my son had just turned 2 and I had just celebrated my 2 yr wedding anniversary. I could remember one day feeling a lump in my under arm and then feeling pain in my right breast. I visited my family doctor who then told me he would have to send me for a mammogram the same day. I was then scheduled for a specialist the same day. Next came the biopsy. I remember sitting in the doctors office with my husband being told I had breast cancer. It was a huge shock. I had a tumor about 4 cm in dimension. I also had 16 affected lymph nodes in my under arm.  

The most difficult part….. Everything! Not being able to care for my son, loss in appetite, restlessness, having to convince people that I was going to be okay and not die. Not to mention the fact that the very medicine that was supposed to save my life….. I was allergic to it. So before every treatment I had to take a dose of bendryl. I had 6 treatments in total. Broken in half because my tumor shrunk so fast that the doctor needed proof that I actually had a tumor. After the 6 treatments every 2 weeks I had 30 days of radiation. 

Question: How did you get through all the tough issues that come from a diagnosis?

Answer: I honestly got through the tough times with the help of God. For no other reason would I be here today with a testimony of healing.

Question: Did you turn to family for support?

Answer: My husband was my biggest supporter along with my family, church family, friends and co workers.

Question: Did the DBCC help you? Or did you have an outside support system like a church or sorority or friends or coworkers who you counted on?

Answer: The DBCC helped me out a lot. They were always ready to have someone talked to me if I had any questions or just needed someone to talk to. Everyone was always there to cheer me on and encourage me every step of the way. 

Question: Did breast cancer run in your family? I know your sister is also a survivor. Did you guys speak about your risk factors before being diagnosed – or do you do so now – especially for the future generations?

Answer: My breast cancer was genetic. I thank God for my plastic surgeon who suggested that I get genetics testing before getting reconstruction. It is at that point I found out it was genetic. At that point I only knew that my grandmother died of ovarian cancer. I was then able to get my second breast removed and help reduce the chance of it coming back.  From that I was able to tell my sister and all relatives that it was genetic. I begged my sister to get testing, unfortunately  that didn’t happen and before long she was diagnosed. 

Question: What advice would you give to a black woman who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer? Is there anything you wish you knew before that might have helped you along your journey?

Answer: The advice that I would give is don’t give up! Your story does not end with a diagnosis. Have Faith. A doctor once told me that it is really mind over matter. Don’t allow your mind and the things people may say dictate how you heal and survive. You can make it. Go get genetics testing, find out if it runs in your family, there is preventative work that can be done.  The one thing I wish I knew, was to get genetics testing before I had my surgeries.

Question: How are you today?

Answer: I feel amazing and grateful that God would heal me and continue to add years to my life. I’m also grateful for my support group that still encourages me and celebrates my life.  I have so many reminders of what I went through physically that keeps me humble and helps me to remember that I need to share my story and information with others.

 

 

 

Personalized Medicine… The future is here for Judy!

We have all heard that personalized medicine is the future of cancer treatment. Fortunately for some, the future is here now! At the National Breast Cancer Coalition Project LEAD conference last summer, a staff member from the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition met Judy Anderson, a stage 4 breast cancer survivor from Florida. Judy’s incredible story of breast cancer diagnosis, recurrence, treatment, and her experience in a clinical trial is told below. We are amazed that the future of breast cancer treatment is here and Judy has experienced it! We wish her a cancer-free future filled with much happiness!

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Pictured: Judy at the National Breast Cancer Coalition Project Lead conference in San Diego last July 2015.

While President Obama and Vice President Biden are beginning work on a new initiative in the fight against cancer, a Port St. Lucie woman has just returned from the front lines in the battle to cure cancer with some hopeful newsJudy Perkins Anderson has had Stage 4 breast cancer since August, 2013.  She was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 and had a mastectomy.  Since she became metastatic, in the last 2-1/2 years, she has been through numerous treatments including several different hormonal therapies, chemotherapies and targeted therapies.  Last summer, with treatment options running out, she found out about a clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD.  The trial, “Immunotherapy Using Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes for Patients with Metastatic Cancer”, builds on existing immunotherapy that has already shown success with melanoma patients.  This trial expands the patient population to include people with other cancers with solid metastatic tumors.

The theory behind this treatment is that part of our immune system is still trying to fight the cancer.  However, most of our immune system no longer recognizes the cancer as an enemy and is no longer trying to attack it.  Tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) are white blood cells (WBCs) that have penetrated the tumor and are trying to fight the cancer.  They are a small minority of the WBCs in our bodies and do not have sufficient numbers to effectively fight the cancer.

In Mrs. Anderson’s case, she had a tumor removed in August, 2015 to potentially develop her treatment.  Her tumor was cut into 24 pieces and the TIL were watched to see if any of them would attack the cancer.  In four of the 24 pieces, activity was seen.  Subsequently, the active TIL from these four tumor pieces were grown up into an army of about 80 billion T-cells focused only on killing her cancer.  This “selective TIL treatment” was ready for Mrs. Anderson just before Christmas in December, 2015.

Prior to receiving her “TIL army” as Mrs. Anderson calls it, she was given high dose chemotherapy that killed all the other WBCs in her system.  This way, when the selective TIL treatment was infused, the only target was the cancer cells.  With time, her bone marrow will regenerate the other WBCs which are an integral part of our normal immunity that fights infections and disease.

Mrs. Anderson returned home on New Year’s Day 2016 and has been recovering from the TIL treatment which can be, in her words, “a grueling affair”.  Amazingly, she reports that more than half a dozen tumors that she could feel in her chest have “melted away”.  She has stopped all pain medications that she had been taking to control the pain from the cancer.  Her doctors at NIH are already very optimistic saying that such a rapid response is unusual.  Mrs. Anderson will get scans in early February that will confirm what she already knows, that she is heading for a remission.  How long it will last, remains to be seen.  But, for other patients that have responded, sometimes the remissions have lasted a long time.  Until there is evidence to the contrary, Mrs. Anderson is resuming life without cancer and beginning once again to plan for the future.

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Pictured: the Olive study group at Project Lead in July 2015. Judy is on the right, standing next to DBCC staff member, Beth Krallis.

What do you think after reading about Judy’s experience? What questions do you have about TIL treatment and cancer fighting of the future? What do you wish you knew earlier or want to know now about clinical trials?

If you would like to find out more about participating in a clinic trial or becoming involved with the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition’s Clinical Trials Mentoring Initiative, please contact Beth. Researchers and the medical community recognize the need for trained advocates and their support role to the clinical trials process. Without participants, research outcomes are limited.

If you want to learn more about the science of breast cancer and Project LEAD, please visit the National Breast Cancer Coalition website.