Tuesday, October 09, 2012 7:36 AM
Community helps breast cancer program
By Lisa Boykin Batts | Times Life Editor
October is a big month for Robin Williams.
As manager of Wilmed Healthcare Foundation, she spends all year raising funds for Mother’s Day Mammograms and awareness of breast cancer issues.
But come October, the entire country "thinks pink.”
Breast Cancer Awareness Month gives an even larger forum for the issues that Williams and the volunteer arm of the foundation, The Pink Ladies, deal with all year. And it gives them a good platform for many fundraisers and a chance to bring even more awareness to what they do at the Foundation.
Since 2003, more than 1,000 uninsured and indigent women have received free breast cancer screening through the Mother’s Day Mammograms program.
And soon, the Foundation will take that even further, offering diagnostic testing for women who have discovered a lump but don’t have insurance to pay for further testing.
The community has always helped out with Mother’s Day Mammograms, and this year, the effort is even larger, she said, with more and more businesses planning special events this month to benefit the Foundation’s breast cancer program.
BUSINESSES HELP OUT
Miller’s mother, Lori Inglis, is a two-time breast cancer survivor, and she wanted to do something to honor her.
After Pink Lady Megan Nichols, who works for Miller, told her about the Foundation’s efforts, she knew the money she raised must go to that program rather than to a national fund.
Miller said she wanted to support the women of the community.
"Without the community, we wouldn’t be here,” she said. "I hope to raise so much money it’s ridiculous!”
During October, customers are encouraged to wearing pink and say "Think Pink” when ordering at Carolina Cheese in Brentwood. If they do, 10 percent of their total order will be donated to the Pink Ladies’ projects. There are also containers at the counter for donations.
Miller and Inglis hope the women who come in and see the staff wearing pink and white shirts and hats will also remember how important breast cancer screening is.
"It’s beatable if you know,” Miller said.
Inglis, who was first diagnosed 15 years ago, said it’s nice to see the support and to realize, as a patient or survivor, that you are not alone in your fight.
Carolina Cheese Company is one of several businesses doing similar projects, all to benefit the Foundation’s programs. Williams said they like the idea of their donation staying in town.
"It goes to the people here who need it,” she said. "They are making a difference in our community to save lives.”
The hospital is also doing projects for the month. Already, the Pink Ladies have operated an information table at the hospital, and Outpatient Radiology, where patients receive mammograms, has been decorated pink and white, and there are special giveaways. The hospital cafeteria is planning to decorate for the month and to offer special menu items, Williams said.
All of this effort is aimed at the women of Wilson, educating them and making sure they get screened for breast cancer.
Breast cancer is one of the top cancers in Wilson, Williams said. Not only that, but Wilson and the seven surrounding counties have a higher diagnosis and death rate for breast cancer than anywhere North Carolina as a whole, she said. Williams attributes that, in part, to the loss of insurance for so many local residents. That’s where the Foundation steps in.
The Foundation paid $65,000 in its first seven years for mammograms for uninsured women. In 2011, the hospital decided to pick up the expense so these women can get free screenings and the Foundation can use its money for other breast cancer projects.
Local physicians have written off more than $500,000 in charges to help women who need treatment but can’t afford it. An additional $45,000 has been spent to pay for chemotherapy drugs and more.
In addition to that, the Pink Ladies have cooked meals, purchased medicines, provided household items and groceries, helped with holiday expenses, paid light bills and bought gas cards for patients and their families, Williams said.
They also provide education to more than 9,000 mammography patients each year and offer more education through speaking engagements, health fairs and information tables in the community.
The Foundation’s breast cancer program also raised enough money to purchase $400,000 digital mammogram equipment and has started a scholarship fund in memory of Joan Hunter, who was diagnosed through the program. The scholarship fund will pay for additional training for mammography technicians.
The Pink Ladies have also welcomed a junior chapter, co-chaired by Elisabeth Alabaster and Williams’ daughter, Austin.
Austin said she’s enjoyed being a Junior Pink Lady and helping other people.
"It just makes me feel good,” she said.
Austin and other Junior Pink Ladies helped with a Tobs fundraiser this summer and will be out in full force Thursday night to help at Pink Night at Chick-fil-A.
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