FEATUREOctober 2020

The Pink Ribbon Goes Virtual

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By Deborah Vietor

Although this is the first opportunity to join Susan G. Komen’s Virtual Race for A Cure, Sunday, November 1, 2020, it is the 25th anniversary of the race. This year’s theme is “90s Throwback End to Breast Cancer Walk,” with participants dressed in 90s gear. So get your leotards, track and bodysuits, break out your headbands and be ready to rock!

Meredith Hall-Chand is the Interim CEO and President of Susan G. Komen San Diego. She shares a passion and dedication for supporting the organization in searching for a cure, as her grandmother battled breast cancer and passed away from lymphoma.

“This is the only organization in San Diego formulating a community profile, focusing on breast cancer care and the barriers to health access,” Hall-Chand said. “Komen San Diego identifies the most critical needs within the community, working to fill gaps and increase access to early detection and quality treatment.”

The organization provides services ranging from medical services such as mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds, diagnostic services, breast prostheses, lymphedema sleeves, post mastectomy bras, and any breast cancer-related medical device. Komen collaborates with all of the hospital systems throughout San Diego, as well as dozens of clinics. Clinics bill Komen for these services as they continue to provide a lifeline for underserved communities.

Additional services include: food, housing and financial assistance for care coordination, utilities, co-pays, childcare, transportation, employment, senior services,, patient navigation, and education.

During COVID-19, assisting the community is more vital than ever, Hall-Chand said.

Along with the support of a small staff and volunteer efforts, Hall-Chand has secured over $5 million in gifts. She has increased funding by 150 percent, transforming growth in attendees and revenue by 25 percent.

“Six women daily are diagnosed with breast cancer in San Diego County and each day one person dies,” Hall-Chand shared.

This year, over 250 research grants are collectively funded throughout the United States and globally in order to find a cures. In the last few years, Komen has participated in changing legislation regarding criteria for breast cancer research trial participation in California.

“We want patient care advocacy, legislation, research clinical trials and laws for advocacy.” Hall-Chand shared.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients have been unable to venture into the grocery store. Komen’s partnership with: Padres Pedal the Cause, the Padres Foundation, US Bank and Vons/Albertsons involves a dedicated volunteer team, providing grocery delivery on Saturdays to cancer patients through the end of December.

Komen works with many organizations, and one of their biggest partners is Jewish Family Services, together providing vital resources and assistance to breast cancer patients.

“The highest risk for breast cancer is being a woman, the second is age. In younger women, breast cancer is typically more aggressive,” Hall-Chand said. “Compared to screening-age adults, younger women are more likely to be diagnosed at a distant stage than an early stage. Which likely reflects diagnostic delays, as well as a higher prevalence of aggressive molecular subtypes.”

She also stressed the importance of “Knowing your normal.”

“If something does not feel right, have yourself checked out and should a friend share something with you, regarding changes in their health, support them in doing the same,” she said.

Komen is invested in assisting researchers identify genes for metastatic breast cancer (MBC), and the processes causing breast cancer cells to metastasize, developing and testing new therapies to both prevent and treat MBC, discovering new methods for predicting or detecting metastasis, using urine or blood. Currently, Komen is prioritizing 70 percent of grants, which are directed toward Metastatic Stage 4 patients.

Although I have written in the past about Susan G. Komen San Diego, this story holds a personal meaning for me today.

In July of 2019, my daughter, Ashleigh was diagnosed with Metastatic Stage 4 de novo breast cancer at the age of 32. This has been a journey like no other, as for over a year, she has endured surgeries, treatments, procedures and immunotherapy every three weeks.

Ashleigh proudly participated in the Race for the Cure in 2019, joined by family and friends.

Her courage, perseverance, and dedication in supporting others with this challenging and often devastating disease is more than impressive. I believe that breast cancer is something she has and not something she is.

We took a memorable train trip last year to Santa Barbara and agreed that for once, for a few days, we felt “normal.” There were no treatments, procedures or doctor’s appointments, just a mother and daughter enjoying the zoo, farmer’s market, the beautiful ocean view, a movie and each other. We know we only have today, which we treasure like no other.

The following is dedicated to Ashleigh and to all the mothers and daughters, including anyone experiencing all forms of breast cancer.

A Mother’s Journey

Begins before you are born,

When you are small and I hold your hand, keeping you protected and safe,

Watching your transformation into an amazing young woman, I hold stronger than ever to a belief in G-d,

As you hold fast to your own beliefs and truth,

I do not hold on to expectations, as you have far exceeded mine,

Holding onto your spirit, this journey involves laughter, hope, peace, and a belief in all things good for you,

A mother’s journey finally culminates into holding onto a never ending, unconditional love.

Individuals can walk with Susan G. Komen’s Virtual Race for A Cure from anywhere in San Diego County from 8:30 to 11:00 a.m., November 1. Connect for more information with: Race Team, In Motion at: (760) 692-2900 or via email: race@sdkomen.org. For information regarding breast health or breast cancer, call the breast care helpline: 1-(877) GO KOMEN, (1-877-465-6636) or email at helpline@komen.org. For more information regarding volunteer opportunities or to donate, visit www.komensandiego.org.

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