OCEAN CITY — The American Cancer Society (ACS) launched this year’s Pink Ribbon Classic at the Beach, a months-long series of events aimed toward raising awareness for breast cancer, with a Making Strides Against Breast Cancer breakfast on Wednesday morning.
Founded by Judy Johnson-Schoelkopf and Nancy Dofflemyer, the Pink Ribbon Classic has existed in some form for the past 15 years, according to ACS Community Manager Kathy Decker.
“It started with the golf tournament,” said Decker, who added that the event has since grown to include everything from Mah Jong to tennis to fishing.
The Ocean City Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Committee, chaired by Beverly Furst, will have Kathy Mathias, a long-time breast cancer survivor, former Pink Ribbon Classic chairwoman, and wife to state Sen. Jim Mathias, as honorary chair this year. Wednesday’s breakfast served as an opening gun, heralding what Pink Ribbon events will take place over the next few months.
Beginning with the Poor Girls Open fishing tournament Aug. 18-20 and officially ending with the Crop Out Cancer scrapbooking event Nov. 11-12, the campaign spans eight events in four months, all in an attempt to raise funding and awareness for breast cancer detection and treatment. Also included will be a tennis tournament Sept. 20, a Card and Game party Oct. 4, a Mah Jongg tournament Oct. 20, a golf championship Oct. 21, and a Jammin’ Out Cancer concert Nov. 4.
One of the biggest events of the session, the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K run/walk, which will take place on the boardwalk in Ocean City on Oct. 15, will be a bit different than the Pink Ribbon Classic 5K from years past.
The run/walk will feature a non-competitive, free to enter 5K walk, as well as a competitive, $25 entry fee 5K run. Whether sprinting or strolling, however, the goal of both 5K events is to help those diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I would like to have at least 60 teams this year,” said Furst, adding that her goal was to raise over $30,000 with the event.
The money generated by the event will also go towards increasing one of the best weapons against breast cancer: awareness.
“We know cancer screening saves lives,” said Dawn Denton, community education manager at Atlantic General Hospital.
Denton, who is also a breast cancer survivor, stressed the importance of regular screenings.
“Scientific studies prove that tests are important,” she reiterated.
All speakers at the breakfast agreed that the first and biggest step in the fight against breast cancer is awareness.
“Early detection saves lives,” said Decker.
Denton also told attendees at the breakfast that treatment options are constantly evolving and that being diagnosed with breast cancer doesn’t mean the fight was over.
“Back in the old days, you got breast cancer and you either lived or you died,” said Bean Keagle, a two-time breast cancer survivor, who finished her latest round of radiation treatments last month.
Keagle admitted that being diagnosed with cancer is never easy, even the second time around.
“I was supposedly prepared for this,” she said.
However, Keagle was adamant on her opinion that while fighting cancer was tough, giving up was not an option.
Dr. Rosemary Thomas, a member of the ACS South Atlantic Division Board of Directors, reinforced Keagle’s message.
“With your help,” she told the audience, many of whom were medical professionals and cancer survivors, “the American Cancer Society is saving lives. And by doing so, we are creating more birthdays by helping people stay well, by helping people get well, by finding cures and by fighting back.”
One of the messages expressed during the breakfast was that breast cancer is not an individual burden.
“Entire families are affected by the disease,” said Paul Corbett, a volunteer with the ACS.
Decker agreed that providing support, both medical and emotional, was what the ACS was all about.
“We can help them [the patient] find local resources,” she remarked.
June Bretz, who was diagnosed with breast cancer almost two decades ago, explained that the volunteer atmosphere in ACS is unlike anything else.
“Even when I was working, I was volunteering on the side,” she said.
Bretz asserted that many ACS volunteers share her commitment. When asked why she volunteers, Bretz answered it is because “people reached out” to her when she was first diagnosed. The support she was shown had such a profound effect on her, Bretz remarked, that she has spent the last 20 years returning the favor.
Decker highlighted the work Keagle has done in sharing her experiences with others in the same situation.
“She’s helped so many women through their journey,” said Decker. “They [patients] need somebody who’s been there and done that.”
According to ACS, one in eight women in the U.S. will develop breast cancer in their lives. Next to skin cancer it is the most prevalent in women and next to lung cancer the deadliest. The ACS recommends that women 40 and older receive a mammogram and clinical breast exam every year, while women 20 and older conduct self-exams monthly and receive clinical exams every three years.
Decker also warned women with a family history of breast cancer to be especially observant. Keagle and Bretz, both of whom have had relatives also diagnosed with breast cancer, agreed. Bretz’s mother and maternal grandmother both suffered from breast cancer, while Keagle’s mother and father were diagnosed. Keagle stressed the condition of her father, warning men who believe that breast cancer is solely a problem for women that it does cross the gender divide.
“In 2011, 2,140 men will likely be diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Decker, adding that about 450 of those men will lose their life to the disease.
For more information or to become involved in the Pink Ribbon Classic, visit www.stridesoceancity.org or call 1-800-937-9696