COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — On Tuesday, hundreds of men and women joined together for Piedmont Columbus Regional Foundation’s 23rd annual Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon.
The Elena Amos Breast Cancer Center says 355,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Once diagnosed, the chance that a woman will die is one in 39.
“One in eight women or 12% will be diagnosed with breast cancer,” Dr. Andrea Cole, Medical Director of Breast Imaging at the Elena Amos Breast Cancer Center, said. “Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women in the United States after skin cancer.”
Wanda Amos, daughter-in-law of the late John B. Amos, is one of those eight. It was just a Thursday afternoon in May of this year when Dr. Cole told her she had cancer.
“When you hear that word is a scary word,” Amos said. “At first you cry, and I did cry.”
Barbara Dooley, wife of winningest Georgia Football coach Vince Dooley, received her diagnosis in December of 2005.
“I had no idea it was not in my family, no history. Then, boom! You hear you have cancer and it’s like somebody stabbing you in the stomach,” Dooley said. “And so, I think we all need to be aware that it could be us.”
Both Amos and Dooley say their faith and families helped them persevere.
“I have my faith and I had a lot of people praying for me and just meeting the people at John B. Amos Cancer Center, the lady that I was with before she was there when I came my first day, she told me everything to expect,” Amos said. “And it really helps when you talk to other cancer patients. And I feel very lucky because I was diagnosed early and so I have a very good prognosis.”
“We need to talk about it and talk about how our community, our family and our friends. And of course, our prayer life can affect it,” Dooley exclusively told WRBL. “Prayer was number one. Number two was my family. And number three had to have been all my friends. It’s amazing how many people love you when they think you’re dying.”
Both leadership and survivors agree what is key.
“Early diagnosis is key,” Aline Lasseter, Executive Director of Piedmont Columbus Regional Foundation said. “The message here today is that women need to be advocates for their own health through self-exams, annual mammography and making sure that you’re just aware of your body and changes that may occur and seek treatment quickly.”
“Early detection. Get your mammograms. They save lives,” Amos said.
Breast cancer deaths have seen an overall decline of 43% since 1980, doctors at the Elena Amos Breast Cancer Center attribute that to early detection.
“Cancer is not the end of the road. Cancer is the beginning of a journey,” Dooley said. “I don’t want you to have to face that journey, but if you do, face it with faith, face it with family, face it with friends, keep your attitude positive. And let me tell you what, you’ll be a better person when it’s over.”
Last year’s luncheon raised $116,000. All of those proceeds went towards creating comfort bags for women that have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“These comfort bags provide women with a bag of comfort items such as a blanket, a silk pillowcase, a soft toothbrush, soaps and lotions and things that are going to help them during their cancer journey,” Lasseter said. “Every year we’ll provide about 400. That’s about the number of women diagnosed every year, and that’s 400 comfort bags a year in addition to the healing gardens.”
The funds from this year’s luncheon will go towards creating the Hope and Healing Gardens.
“This community of amazing women are raising money to help us develop a healing garden at the John B. Amos Cancer Center that will not only benefit the patients from the Elena Amos Breast Cancer Center, but all of our patients that we serve, some odd about 650 patients a day at the John B. Amos Cancer Center,” Lasseter said. “Going through cancer treatment, whether it’s your chemo or radiation, our patients need a respite during their treatment time. And our healing gardens are going to help provide that.”
In addition to the comfort bags and the upcoming Hope and Healing Gardens, CEO of Piedmont Columbus Regional, Scott Hill, highlighted what else this long-standing event has funded.
“Every single year we take this money, and we use it specifically at the John B. Amos Cancer Center,” Hill said. “We have bought numerous ultrasounds for our breast care center, and we continue to use the money for comfort care bags for women who are diagnosed and treated for cancer at the John B. Amos Cancer Center.”
Those that wish to support the mission of the John B. Amos Cancer Center still can even if they missed the luncheon.