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Breast Friends

Apr 9, 2014|

A discussion with Becky Olson and Sharron Henifin about the non-profit Breast Friends and how it supports women and families experiencing cancer, and about their fundraising gala event.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

You're listening to microscope a series of interviews with people of interest -- northwest Oregon and selfless Washington. My name's Gary and on this segment of -- go holy talking about breast friends and nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for female cancer patients and their families. And I'd like introduced -- -- and -- -- you two other co founders of breast friends -- dressed as we are great so back let's start with you from this organization you're going. Well you know breast cancers are pretty scary thing when you know when women go through it they're really. Simpson many times are isolated and alone so when Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer back in 1993. She was the first one inner circle of friends to go through cancer. And you know many of us myself included said things Teixeira like you know Sharon I am so sorry you're going through this if there's anything I can do let me know. And I said I would help him with a nice little particular I can't -- And that the hard part is you know we don't know what to say and those are it to such natural words -- just kind of blurred out and she said that she let me now. The problem is she didn't break and I would kinda start to think what she must be okay she hasn't called she said she wasn't. And it's really easy for all of us -- kind of sitting in the back to just kind of say well she's doesn't really need my help she'd be calling me and then this kind of phenomenon happens. A lot of times starts to pass and then you start to feel guilty because you haven't checked and that's exactly where I was with her I felt terrible there's a time I couldn't even tell the story with our -- Because I just felt it's like such an inadequate friend. And three years later when I went through cancer. She knew exactly what to do and ultimately you tell that story because you're such a blessing to me countering anti U Fiat a -- -- Yeah as of three years later -- was diagnosed and again and I knew that she's a very outgoing com gregarious kind of person and and remembering what I went through three years before are feeling pretty isolated. I was home alone during. When that when my kids and my husband or off to work and school. And unfortunately that tie game. You didn't eat and it's amazing how you have way too much time and you go into that really dark place. When you have to excite your hands and so any any -- -- was going to be dealing with that as well. And we were actually taking an algebra class at the time which of all things in this I still kind of realized that restaurant that I might say I completely scratched my head I think he had to get through that but. Luckily with our professors help heat. Allowed Becky to just -- turn in homework threw me so I would go to the clouds than we did homework together. And then as long she can dig the final she was good to go. So I -- that got me to go over to our house every week and I bring Arab milk shake on chemo days because she was having such a hard time with the chemotherapy. And when I was at work since we worked in the same place I sent emails to my coworkers are -- co workers. To make sure that they remembered you know what are address was in her phone number in her email and just kind of gave them updates. After I had okayed that with Becky ahead of time and so it it did make a big difference they think in you know getting -- that he's. And it is huge and the thing that kind of evolved from all that is four years after my diagnosis. -- at the hospital and I was in their act on another lump turned out to be nothing but we didn't know it at this moment. And we're waiting for a doctor Freeman and we're just having lunch we're having one of those can deep. Like conversations or not. Why do you suppose that both of us got breast cancer we both survived it we both stayed friends you know kind of believing that things happen for a reason and what is their. But possible or teaching can there be. And what we decided that -- reliance is that. We needed to teach the friends and family how to better support their loved ones and that day at lunch -- friends was born. We came up with the name we came up with the idea. An -- started it was kind of funny because -- when we're done with the meeting there with that with the doctor appointment she went back to her office I -- back to mind. And then she registered you are all that we would own one day. And I registered breast friends with the name Illinois secretary of State's office and then we call each other and said OK now it. Anyone of -- had ever -- both had -- volunteered before in different things that. We've never run a nonprofit we've also works full time you know -- previous jobs were -- -- And but we wanted to do something to make a difference you know we wanted this experience matter and at that point in time looking at. All of today the spectrum of services that are available. What was really missing was teaching those friends and family how to help. And so that's how we started but over time I was fourteen years ago almost and overtime lifting -- programs evolved we have kind of quickly. But what we found very interesting -- all of this is people are really you know we become passionate about something and you tend to become passionate about that area that. That hits you for some reason what hit me the most was I felt like such a failure is a friend I didn't want him. Being that person who didn't know how to offer support and yet that's why was because I had no clue. So to me teaching to friends and family how to support their loved ones through the journey was really. A powerful thing for me I -- to really communicate that. And we're Sharon felt the real connection which she wanted to work one on one with the patients and make sure that the individual patient didn't have to go through it alone just like she did for me. Is so we ended up involving their programs and somebody described it once is being -- into the same elephant you know it's video affair but it still. It's one big animal and so sure -- focuses one on one with the patients I focus more on community outreach kind of teaching the people out in the community how to. Support -- -- -- and it's a great match it's we're actually very well all these years to think about. And we have programs pretty much from date of diagnosis all the way through the treatment. As well as many years past treatments so it's just a really interesting blend of you know armed services for the woman as well as her family. So how many patients does breast friends get on an annual basis -- last year you know it. -- I love digital stuff just has surged to get easier as you figure it out -- we finally have a track a really good tracking and place we can actually track. How many new patients we got it last year alone in 2013 at 287. Now we update it was 290. Three inch or something brand new patients just in -- Oregon office that came to us either in our office calling in on the phone. And these are some women are just you know kind of a one shot they have won me a question or whatever but some of them. We worked with over and over and over again and that's in addition to the ones from prior years that -- Still supporting so in any given year were probably working with about 500 women. And on. You know it's just. It's just very uplifting and rewarding to be part of their journey you know for -- and help them get through it so. What exactly -- one dollar we're working with -- -- is gonna go through tomorrow too I'm her doctor appointment she was diagnosed. Eight years down and she's possibly battling it again so she was our life for awhile she kinda disappeared she didn't need us and she's back now we don't know if it's going to be cancer diagnosis we hope not but she's she knows we're here hammer here to support her again if she needs a south. But such a scary place to be in the -- unknown territory where you more you begin. Now how do you how do you begin helping somebody. Threw well I I laughingly. Say that I pull people -- the ceiling. Two of to help them kind of and I guess come to grips with what they're really going trail and and again. You're given so much information. In a very short amount a time when you are diagnosed. Your ears literally learning new language in many cases. And yeah. Women are funny because we tend to minimize what we're going through to make it comfortable for everybody else. And so it's I'm going to be fine men and everything's going to be yeah yeah that -- and that's what I did that's what I did then and then unfortunately. You know sometimes. Friends like back to eat -- -- your. No better than that exactly and and so we lead laughingly tell big these kinds of stories so people really understand because it is hard. For women especially to ask for help. And so we try to give them permission. In our own way -- asking for help when they need it and actually having like a list of things that they can. Beyond people do call and say what ideal you know and so literally having a list by the fall and so when somebody does make that call they can say. Well you know Joey needs to be picked up from soccer -- is that something you can do form earlier you know whatever. And everybody's journeys a little bit different but the stories are so intertwined. Because everyone has the same emotions going through this it's very scary like you said. One of the things that I do when patients calling in fact I just talked again yesterday actually got her number from you yeah cancer treatment centers of America in Arizona. She was given her name is -- -- referral it's -- she called us. And I just want to talk about just being kind of what she's gone through now and she's pretty scared. And you know when the person to talk about is how cancer has changed the face of cancers changed so much over the last few years -- -- three time survivor and from my. First diagnosis to my second when he years later the difference in treatment was huge. And then against my third time it was huge yet again. But it's getting better they're getting you know better with the diagnosis are getting better with the treatment is sort of the first things to remind women when their right at that first new stage. Is that you know more women survive -- than ever before and we don't know what everybody circumstances are. And sadly many will still not survive but more will than -- and I think that when your newly diagnosed patient you need to hear these success stories. You need to hear that. I survived it three times and I shouldn't still be here and I'm twenty years your primary now my -- -- DeAngelo of that in and they those -- the stories as simple as they are that's what they need to hear. Because I think for a lot of women. You know I. Especially if you're young and you never really known people that attacked cancer we equate we hear cancer we -- death we've put them together in the same sentence. And we don't know for going to be one of those fortunate ones that lives are one of the tragic ones who does do that that just don't make it. We don't know that our first diagnosed so we need to hear those success stories we need to hear. That it is survivable you know. We never want sugarcoat that are promised something that. You know that can't because we don't know nobody knows that. We just giving them that encouragement that things are different now than they used to be and more women survive it became most not like. You see in the movies. I always think of that movie with Julia Roberts found him dying -- that way back years ago for she's taking care to cancer patient he's on chemo and he is just. Violence. And violently ill for days and they've got medicines for that now got so it doesn't feel like that anymore it's not a cakewalk you there's a real promise that that. It's -- fear of the unknown people just don't know so we try to just. Brit -- the reality of what it is and three years we went back. For years you actually saying you know nothing's worse and you know getting cancer diagnosis except for hearing and again and then I remember. Becky calling me from her car. When she was diagnosed the second time and she said you know -- and it's not just that I mean yeah I'm not looking forward to it I have to still go through chemo I still have to go after all of this and and certainly not looking for Ted but that whole fear of the unknown is actually. Not consider. And I beat it why I'm going to be -- and you know let's just get on the program and so it's a feat that fear of the unknown is what so many of us go through and and again like -- was saying that. You know feeling person that you have no one has passed away from this disease it's especially a skit in scary because you don't know any different kind. Studio nowlin on both sides absolutely and -- from the family and absolutely clear that helped him. Yes everybody kind of come to grips with what's going on yeah and had a talk about it and. Where exactly -- because when the cancer diagnosis hits you know that family it's kind of like that cancer got dropped right on the mom and all the people around her feeling the ripple. And that first level of ripple is pretty much turmoil. Just like it is on her into the Stanley gets can be just as frozen just as. As -- is -- as mom and I'm so they don't really know what to do so we try to do is encourage women to reach out beyond their own. Immediate family to try to bring in from some other kind of support. I remember there was a lady that called once I'm from Virginia and she was -- it just was relatively new their family. And have to wait for other jobs and she was kinda isolated. And I ouster and she didn't know anybody when she got diagnosed and I said -- go to church there and she goes well yeah why they said are you connected with the women's ministry she does. We have SMU they don't really know me and I said -- I call her. Asian naming -- -- -- -- -- assertion she didn't get a pastor's name and number I called the pastor and I said. What are your parishioners is going to breast cancer she really doesn't know anybody and she really could use some help and he goes well what's your name as I told a -- Oswald get -- all right -- The next thing I know -- fools calling her and they will organize the women's ministry and they're bring her food then I mean. Sometimes it's that simple but. Armed but you do have to be willing and birth -- and oh yeah sharing his hearing what you're going through and that's another. What part of the message that we communicate is you who else knows about this besides your husband and your children who hospitals. And we encourage him to tell people let let people in because they can't help but they don't know. But and I have so many women to say you know that that people that are that are closest to them. Our our paralyzed you know very light doing all the care taking for them minimizing what they're going through and so it's really that -- circle that you were alluding to Becky that ash that really are. Not quite so emotionally attached that they can actually. Be helpful they can bring the food -- So even on those days that maybe you're not young like eating your kids you're still -- the -- or you know picking somebody up. You know from their sports or their dance lessons or this or that are just do an impression Iran are all these different things and that. Friends and family that are may be a -- that little outer circle. Can more easily we kind of rally the troops and help you kind of get through all of fat makes a difference absolutely. Do you patience pay for your services. No everything that we offer is free of charge or available we do have on the trading young cancer workshops. I mean that's something we teach at the end when they're done going through their treatment -- military and speak to that in just a moment it. There is a fee for that just because you know if we do in the retreat format we have to rent space we do. But if they couldn't. Come because of that and we are for scholarships absolutely because we don't want anyone to be turned down but that is the only thing -- perhaps browse prosthesis all of us. Those other materials and things we have it's all it's all complimentary. And all of our one on one services and our support groups in all of those things those are all. Just part of who -- who we are express trends in the offer to the community how large the stuff do you have. Not they can match. Actually back and I work full time and then we have to part time people but of course we have volunteers as well that -- out it's -- lose interest in becoming a volunteer out of totally do that. And they would call our office we can give -- the phone number for that -- they can visit our website and there's a volunteer application form online. There's a lot of different ways you know we may need help in the office with data entry and we also need -- people to help. Partner with patients that need support -- -- a lot of different avenues that we. Really assess people's you know it's kind of skill sets and desires and make sure we got the right people in the right jobs so that it's it's a good fit for everybody but -- lots of good ways they can get -- President talks a lot about our twinkle in any kind of laughing -- talk about that but it's really about our passion and -- -- so we wanna make sure that -- matching. That volunteer with what they're interested in what their passion about two assault that's part of that assessment what is your telephone number. 503598. 80 for eight -- in the website. Www. Breast friends stopped work to do all kinds of information among this on your site right now. The other big event coming up we do -- tell me about that except if it's. It's -- sold out fundraising in the city it is this is our big you know we do three signature events a year -- with all of them having fundraising component of this -- -- big -- this is -- the flagship. It's on May third it's called the joy of life it's a gala fund raiser. It's a silent oral option and we haven't entertainer. Critics are this year is going to be very very different and you geeky comedian juggler a hook out who you -- he was the resident juggler at the Smithsonian Institution. Because -- hear a -- they even had fun yeah. I know that it is a lot of awards I've traveled all over the world he I think he's either in -- right -- -- isn't getting back from Dubai travels all over and does. This comedy routine while he. Throws things he did ask us to put our first row of tables about eight feet -- -- Honestly it's. Does anybody that's a great auction items for the oral auction and does we've got in -- your radio stations that -- not at the wolf. And you think our federal donated a guitar signed by. Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley went about the 46 annual country music awards logo on it -- -- beautiful -- only matches our office. Clinton and maybe you'll be a video mental. I stood -- as -- as we item to have donated so we'll be auctioning now we've got a all one direction and signed photo of their 28 million FaceBook fans -- A little bit more -- -- just aren't usually don't even. I've got a signed photo by then we've got a Beatles albums signed by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. And that's really cool kind of fun stuff so -- -- -- taking -- it's at the DoubleTree Adelaide Centre in hand to and it is our eighth annual event so. Love to have you tell me I'm going to be a fun fun evening so. It's not so -- see that you know Ali guys have to -- too much you know about coming but it is not Cheney for the gals you know put on their -- children assistant. And having a party there. The Bruins look good. Clay absolutely it's always a good excuse to go by an address right back -- -- fellow analysts -- -- the. So where can -- get tickets. I you can call our office. You can agendas on line there is a link right on the home page and to buy tickets for the event -- -- -- -- to the link that says our sponsors and some of the auction items so. They can get your -- yours well how much money you raise from the student. I this event will raise about 60% of -- necessary -- revenue for the years so it's got that you know we're gonna raise between eighty and a 100000 dollars with this event and I'm -- -- later on in the summer we have a golf tournament and then we have our October. Survivor island thank you. Know -- -- -- I don't survivor luncheon and that's also the DoubleTree so. So those are the three main events but this one is the big one this is someone that we rely on -- people come they raise their -- -- You know give us a lot of great support -- one of the things is different about a scary that. Yeah a lot of the support groups are connected to hospitals. Or know some medical clinic for something we are truly truly grassroots and we don't have those big deep pockets funding what we're doing we rely on community support. And -- for people who just believe in what we're doing a lot of our best supporters are people who have utilized or services and somewhere another in. Those that's the kind of support that we need and that's what we have him. We can't you can't tell you that obviously we can still accept your support our best you can send us to check. No regulations under which I guess you can absolutely if and when you were to give back yeah exactly so it's it's it is important tips for us to. Make sure that we are. -- providing the services that the community really needs and that's what the one of the things that breast friends really prides herself on is figuring out where the holes are in the community in need that cancer. Kind of arena and we try to fill those holes to hand off for the support that we can for instance we have. Support groups we column girl's night out. And there wouldn't most of them are -- lacks. So you come and you eat you laughter and you talk about what's going on and done. You know meet a lot of other ladies who have gone through a similar experience because women really do need other women trends. And when you've gone to something like this sometimes the friends that you've had for years don't always get. What you've gone trail and especially with lingering side effects or that fear that bad disease might come back. This is really important to be able then connect with other women with common common feeling -- -- to somebody who's been there perhaps looming issues -- absolutely. The biggest difference between -- -- a regular support group for that kind of do that too but arson are focuses less on the cancer and more on the friendship. And so it is that's why did the pot luck in the sharing of whatever you know -- latest book great maybe you know whatever so. That's one of the things -- in five counties now yeah. I'm with support groups that meet once a month and different different times everything we found the need for a was down in the prison when women are diagnosed with cancer in the prison. They can't just call their friends and get surrounded with love and all that they can't and so we've actually been going to copy -- prison since 2004. I believe. And then a couple years later we discovered that it. Just for women get a mammogram when they're in the prison in other paid for by the Oregon health plan and all that but 13 -- even to go get a mammogram. Was. I'm very horrific experience for them and they had to be taken on public we found out I'm so we recruit quality health care to get the memo band brought into the prison. And even going there every sentence which. He's really. Now instead of having to be strip searched and go through that hole. Going out which of course most tackles he most certainly didn't go and put themselves in that situation. And now they're getting from -- thirteen eighteen mammograms for months. Being done now so it's much much better -- first difference is doing amazing work thanks to -- any building now of what our goal is down there. Also besides just the cancer awareness of breast cancer you know educational -- is also -- help build a better community down there to support each other because again. A lot of our programs are to help their friends and family teach him how to be better support. Well to do a lot of the women in prison they need to feel better about themselves first before they can provide that support to each other. And so we've been teaching self esteem class down there Sharon as a certified life coach and in her training for her I didn't feel as you learn a lot of really valuable things that really can be used for not only the patients but also in the prison. By teaching women how to make better choices and better decisions and that they have some control over some things and there were these -- And they are really into Alan were teaching them to be better and stronger. With each other and now we hear a lot of the times only hear about cancer diagnosis comes from one of them. Where when we first started going there they -- cancer was contagious and you could catch it just by simply taking a bite off of an apple that somebody else had. Prior and. There's a lot of education yeah definitely -- -- -- -- people so much for being here today this is. In super educational for me in the best of luck with the fund raiser coming up on May third. They're right there right now about Philly LA and I -- from breast friends think -- -- monetary issues. Metro -- and Entercom communications public affairs program. My name's Gary and if you have a nonprofit or public affairs organization that you'd like let others know about you can email me at macro Scopes @entercom.com. Remember -- starts of -- -- you can go directly to the station's website and click on the community link and submit your information there. Also we like to hear this program again you can visit our podcast page at microscope PDX dot com. Thanks for listening to microscope and enjoy your weekend.