For Women Only raises money and awareness of breast cancer

Posted 8 May 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Sue Cook – More than 300 people attended the For Women Only event at the White Birch Golf Course in Lyndonville. The event raises an average of $5,000 each year through ticket sales, raffles and other fund-raisers. That money goes to Orleans Community Health for the cancer services program, which assists women who are unable to afford screening due to insufficient or no insurance.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

LYNDONVILLE – Last night, the White Birch Golf Course was host to more than 300 attendants for the 18th Annual For Women Only breast-cancer awareness event. The event brings together survivors and supporters alike to educate women about the need to be screened for breast cancer and other types of cancer. That should raise survival rates and treatment success.

“Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women,” said Lisa Franclemont of the Cancer Services Program of Genesee and Orleans. “The greatest risk factor is being a woman and aging. Of other risk factors, three-quarters of breast-cancer patients have no known risk factors.”

‘If you haven’t had a mammogram, get it done.’ – breast cancer survivor Patty Olinger

Franclemont said that women are frequently told by their doctors if they are older than 50 they no longer need mammograms or screening.

“Over 75% is found in women over age 50. Therefore, if you have been told you do not need one because of your age, this is not true,” she said.

Local artist Carol Culhane provided calligraphic writing on quilt squares with messages written by attendees to honor or memorialize those who have been affected by breast cancer. The quilt will be hung in Medina Memorial Hospital once it is completed by Debbie Secrist.

Franclemont explained that if cancer and treatments would ruin your quality of life as an older woman, then testing to prevent advanced cancer should be a priority, regardless of age. The New York State cancer registry says that 14,000 women are diagnosed each year and around 2,800 die annually.

Women in their 20s should perform monthly self exams. Women over 40 should have mammograms, but people with risk factors should get one when they are younger. She also encourages women to become “breast friends” and remind each other to get checked.

Patty Olinger is a breast-cancer survivor of four years. She tells the crowd about the need for both mammograms and self exams. A mammogram didn’t detect her cancer, but she felt a lump later on.

“If you haven’t had a mammogram, get it done,” Olinger told the crowd. “If you’re making excuses, stop making excuses. If you think it’s going to hurt, it’s not a big deal. What hurts more is telling your kids that you’ve got breast cancer because you see their faces, and I don’t care how big and strong you think they are, it’s the worst thing you’ve ever done.”

Darlene Rich stands with other breast-cancer survivors. Survivors were asked to stand and be recognized for their strength.

Shelby Town Clerk Darlene Rich was diagnosed eight years ago with breast cancer. She remembers the day perfectly because she found out the same day of the For Women Only event in 2006. For her treatment, Rich was able to do a radiation seed twice a day for five days followed by chemotherapy sessions because her cancer was caught early as Stage 1 intraductor carcinoma.

She encourages those who are diagnosed or survivors to reach out to each other for support.

“If someone was diagnosed, they could call me and talk to a survivor,” she said. “I believe in talking about mammograms. I am living proof mammograms do work.”

Rich said she appreciates community events such as For Women Only. “It does spread word.”

The evening also featured laughter as a healing tool. DIVA by DIVA performed during the evening. The group of women is a rotating crew of women from different places and walks of life who attend events for women to offer inspiration while also helping with fundraising efforts. Last night, they sang songs, read poems and quotes, danced and even got the whole room involved in singing “You’ve Got a Friend” to conclude the performance.

The group DIVA by DIVA from Buffalo includes, from left: Ann Mosner, Mary Kate O’Connell, Donna Sawicki, Karen Cassiey, Carol Wrozek, Lynn Hodson and Mary Moebius.

“Laughter is a great healer. I saw a granddaughter, mother and grandmother all laughing together. If we can do that through theater, then why not?” said group leader Mary Kate O’Connell.

To schedule a mammogram at Orleans Community Health in Medina, call 585-798-8054. For more information about Community Partners and their services, call (585) 798-6641.