By Stephanie Dolan
According to breastcancer.org, approximately one in eight woman will develop invasive breast cancer during the course of her lifetime. While incidents of breast cancer in the U.S. have been decreasing since 2000, death rates from breast cancer are higher than any other cancer, with the exception of lung cancer.
In an answer to the stress, fear and stigma that surrounds the disease, the Pink Ribbon Connection (PRC) is a local organization that has developed a program that provides breast cancer patients with much-needed items such as wigs, bras and prosthetics. The mission of PRC is to deliver emotional support, local resources and education to those affected by breast cancer throughout Indiana.
On Oct. 13, PRC will hold their 24th annual Stars of Pink Breast Cancer Survivor Fashion Show in an effort to raise funds to continue their mission of support and edification.
“The show actually started 24 years ago, when an organization called Y-Me Indiana was in existence and began the show as an annual fundraiser,” PRC Executive Director Dori Sparks-Unsworth said. “Some years ago, Y-Me dissolved across the nation, including Indiana, and that is when a group of breast cancer survivors came together and created Pink Ribbon Connection in 2006.”
The fashion show was so popular and successful that organizers decided to keep it going.
“With the money raised from the fashion show, we provide free services and supplies to breast cancer patients and survivors in Indiana,” Sparks-Unsworth said. “These services include a local peer counseling helpline, where we match newly diagnosed patients with seasoned survivors to be their emotional support throughout their treatment and recovery journey, as well as monthly educational sessions in our office in Fountain Square. These sessions are led by doctors and medical professionals and are on various topics which are pertinent to breast cancer patients and their families. Over the past year, these topics have included nutrition, full body wellness, reconstruction, lymphedema, genetics and breast cancer and cold cap therapy.”
Previously mentioned supplies are also provided at no cost as well, such as mastectomy bras, prosthetics, chemo caps and wigs.
“We place no financial restrictions on our programs and supplies,” Sparks-Unsworth said. “So, all the patients need to do is call Pink Ribbon Connection at (317) 255-7465 to schedule an appointment.”
Lucy Stroub is a Certified Mastectomy Fitter at the Figleaf Boutique within the Community South Cancer Center, as well as a breast cancer survivor. She will be one of the many survivors walking the runway during this year’s PRC fashion show.
“I had the privilege of being in the fashion show in 2010,” she said. “I met Dori in 2009 at a fundraiser. Dori is an amazing woman. Her passion and dedication to help women in our community is top notch. So, I am very excited to be in the fashion show again this year with my husband and youngest son.”
Stroub went on to praise her husband for the care he gave her during her illness and recovery.
“My husband, Donnie, took amazing care of me when I was on my cancer journey – even shaving his head and being bald while I was bald,” she said. “Our son Charlie will be in the show with me. He was 11 at the time and is now 21.”
Stroub was diagnosed with cancer on Oct. 6, 2008. She went through eight rounds of chemo, surgery and 33 radiation treatments. By March 23, 2009, she was cancer free.
Stroub worked as a hotel general manager for 23 years before taking her current job.
“I was at a point in my life that I was ready to give myself a break and slow down a bit,” she said. “I was approached by my breast cancer navigator about a position being available at the Figleaf Boutique as a certified mastectomy fitter and she thought I would be great at it. The thought of being able to give back and work with breast cancer patients sparked me. I interviewed and took the job. I love it! It has become a passion of mine to see that patients get the love, care and support that they need.”
Stroub says she has seen many patients as well as their reactions to their disease.
“Some women come in very upset and struggling,” she said. “When they find out that I am a breast cancer survivor it gives them some peace knowing I can truly relate to the journey that they are on because I have been there.”
Stroub said she tries to pass on to her patients that they are beautiful inside and out.
“I stress the importance of taking it easy on themselves along with exercising and eating right, staying positive and always keeping their faith,” she said.
This year, 29 other models will walk the runway with Stroub. Those models include not just survivors but family and medical team members.
“I have always been a not-for-profit director and was drawn to Pink Ribbon Connection because it is a local organization,” Sparks-Unsworth said. “We help Indiana patients and survivors and the board is comprised of Indiana women and men who are able to lead the organization and be responsive to the needs of local patients and survivors. I had led Indiana chapters of national organizations before and found it difficult to send all the money to a national corporate office and then have the staff there decide how money should be used and what services offered to Indiana residents. At Pink Ribbon Connection, this does not happen. Money raised in Indiana stays in Indiana.”
For more information on the fashion show, visit the website at pinkribbonconnection.org/fashion-show.