As National Breast Cancer Awareness months begins, Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition wants everyone to focus on early detection in the fight against breast cancer. Statistics show that finding breast cancer early offers the best chance of survival from a disease that impacts thousands around the world. The month of October is filled with events designed to promote early detection as well as research into better treatment options and providing those diagnosed with the illness with the support they need.
According to DBCC, it is estimated that in Delaware during 2023 there will be 1,050 NEW cases of breast cancer diagnosed with 160 expected deaths because of the disease. In addition, one in eight women will be diagnosed in her lifetime and one in 833 men as well. DBCC wants everyone to know the risk is real, making knowledge and awareness more important than ever.
“DBCC offers education and information on their website about breast health, how to get screening assistance, survivorship support programs as well as resources for those newly diagnosed,” Francesca Vogel, CEO of DBCC said. “With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we want everyone to push the men and women in their lives to get screenings done since breast cancer is more easily treated when caught early. Although we focus on breast cancer in October, we also want awareness throughout the year.”
There are many events planned throughout October designed to support the mission of DBCC, which is to empower the community by raising awareness of breast health issues and increasing access to care through outreach, education and support services while also facilitating early detection and treatment of the disease.
The 8th Annual Car, Truck, Motorcycle and Tractor Show, planned for October 21 at the Georgetown Historical Society Museum Complex at 510 South Bedford Street will feature a craft fair, swap meet, vendors, face painting and more. A corn hole tournament is planned with a four-game round robin to double elimination. Bring your own partner and register from 7 AM to 11 AM with a $15 registration fee. Music will be provided by Sticky Situation and there will be Touch-A-Truck options for children. For more information, contact Levin Clark at 302-500-1128.
Another popular event in Sussex County, Stockley Tavern’s “Bags, Booze and Boobs,” on November 4, starting at noon. This event is centered around a corn hole tournament, but also offers a guest bartender competition, music, and a live auction.
In Kent County, one of the largest events held in October for DBCC is the Monster Mile Walk for a Cause. This year, the event will be held on October 21 at Homestead Gardens in Smyrna. It is a family fun event that includes costumes an after party and a fall festival. Register online at https://give.debreastcancer.org/ge/monster2023 or head over for day-of registration!
New Castle County will also be the site of DBCC events in October when the popular “DeerPark Goes Pink” occurs in Newark at DeerPark Tavern on Sunday, October 22. The event includes a 5k Run/Walk and all proceeds are donated to DBCC. Although these events are designed to bring awareness to early detection and treatment options in a lighthearted way, the fact is that many men and women face a breast cancer diagnosis every day.
Dale Hurley, a 45-year breast cancer survivor, knows how important early detection is in the fight against the disease. In February 1977, Hurley was diagnosed after finding a breast lump during a self-examination while helping her parents relocate to Florida.
“Back then, there was no in-depth evaluation with all the numbers and criteria they use today,” Hurley said. “You had a lump, it was malignant, you either had a radical or modified radical mastectomy. Mine was the modified, sparing a lot of tissue and muscle, just removing the breast and enough tissue for clear margins.”
Her uncle underwent successful treatment for prostate cancer at Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York and his referral, along with a referral from her doctor, got Hurley into surgery.
“My parents, husband and I made the journey and got me checked in. I had a private room since we were so far from home, but eventually lost it to a man who also had a mastectomy and needed the privacy. I was in a wing with breast and lung patients. My surgery was on March 17, 1977, and I requested green stitches for St. Paddy’s Day,” Hurley said. “Because it was a teaching hospital, the doctors worked in teams. They said my cancer was fairly large and had been growing a while but had just gotten to the stage to be felt. It was a slow growing variety.”
Once it was determined to be malignant, Hurley’s breast and many lymph nodes were removed with one section of one node testing positive. Because she was at Roswell, a government funded experimental hospital that worked constantly on blends of chemotherapy for various cancers, some of the treatments were unique at the time.
“I had to go on a chemo regimen for two years. I took mustard gas compound pills; six a day for six days and off for 6 days. They were very bitter and had to be taken with milk, which to this day, I still don’t like!” Hurley said. “After my surgery, with lots of stitches and drain tubes still in, I had to start physical therapy immediately to avoid lymphedema. They knew what they were doing, even though I wondered, because I never had any swelling, or lost use of or strength in my arm. I had to return every three months at first, then six months and finally a year. Eventually I was able to see a local oncologist for follow up. And that was 46 years ago! All praise and glory go to God who was on the journey with me the whole way. I’ll be 80 November 5th, and still enjoying every day to the fullest!”
While at Roswell on one of her return visits, Hurley met Rose Kushner, the author of the book “Why Me: What Every Woman Should Know About Breast Cancer.” Unaware the author was there that day, Hurley explained that the staff felt she would benefit from talking to Kushner since she was only 33, young for a breast cancer diagnosis. They felt Hurley may be interested in reconstruction, but after talking to Kushner, Hurley and her husband made the decision not to have the additional surgery.
“My husband and I were both just glad the cancer was gone and okay with my body minus one breast,” Hurley said. “I never regretted that decision. Losing a breast has never presented any challenges for me. I have had a very active lifestyle including tennis, bowling, three days a week at the gym and lots of yard work. My arthritis and shoulder replacement surgeries have eliminated bowling and tennis, but I am still at the gym three days a week and constantly working in the yard.”
At age 75, Hurley’s mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer, although there was no link between their two cancers. As a result, they did studies on Hurley, her mother and her uncle to see if there was a genetic link related to cancer of reproductive organs. Hurley explained that groups like Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) were not around until many years after her surgery but she has found the organization very helpful over the past few years, offering her the opportunity to mentor others who are facing the same journey she did.
“Because I love flowers, anything gardening related would be my favorite program,” Hurley said. “I have also had fun with flower arranging painting and river cruises. I get to know more of the ladies in the group each time as well as our “token” man.”
Hurley’s advice to anyone who is newly diagnosed with breast cancer is to stay positive.
“Keep the faith. God’s got you and knows what you need,” she said. “You WILL get through it and go back to your lifestyle. I know so many that have done just that. It’s scary, of course, but is a cancer that is easily treated if diagnosed early. Get those mammograms done yearly. It’s the best preventative medicine you can get!”
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