Now in her third bout with breast cancer, Jill Viafore has relied on the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) for the strength, friendship and knowledge she gains from staff and other clients alike. “I wish this center had been around during my first run with breast cancer,” she said. “If they don’t know the answer to a question right away, they will find a way to give me the information I need. I can’t say enough good things about the resource center.”
Jan Jarmon has been using the Center’s services since its doors opened in 1998, and works hard as a member of the Ladies in Pink cancer support group to raise money in a variety of ways, from cookbook sales to restaurant takeovers. Unfortunately, these efforts may not be enough to keep the non-profit’s doors open following news of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Puget Sound Affiliate denying the center $75,000 in funding.
Although BCRC Executive Director Janie Cunningham works hard to diversify funding sources, the reality is that this loss represents a significant blow to the Center’s ability to provide its services free of charge. “We’ve been asked to charge for our services, but it would completely change the way we operate and how available we are to our clients,” she said.
The Center exists to provide for the support, education and psychological and physical needs of those diagnosed with breast cancer. But its mission is also to educate the public about the importance of screening and early detection. BCRC’s Early Detection Program is especially important to many women in the community, as it provides vouchers for free diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds for women under 35 who are low-income or underinsured, upon physician’s referral. The Center will even provide vouchers for women experiencing no symptoms, but who are at a high risk due to genetics or other factors.
“I always say that this program is something that Susan G. Komen herself could have benefited from,” Cunningham said. Komen was diagnosed at 33 and died from breast cancer at 36.
Younger women are more likely to be underinsured, and when diagnosed tend to have more aggressive cancers. Currently, there are no state or federal programs to cover women under 35 with diagnostic imaging or screenings.
“This Center needs to exist,” Cunningham said. “I haven’t lost faith that somehow everything will come together, but people need to stop looking for the magic answer and do something. We’re a local and independent organization, and we need our local community to support us.”
Rather than finding one benefactor to write a generous check, Cunningham would rather have the community latch on to the Center’s mission to have one million people send one dollar, before one person signs a million dollar check.
“I want people to address those envelopes and be thinking about our clients and their needs,” she said. “This place represents a lifeline to so many women in our community.”
The center’s licensed cosmetologist personally works with clients to fit wigs – available to women with or without insurance – in a variety of styles to suit just about anyone. Thanks to a number of volunteer knitters, the center also provides prostheses for women who are post-mastectomy. These soft, durable “Knitted Knockers” provide a lightweight replacement option for costly silicone prostheses that are not always covered by insurance.
The Center also provides patient support kits to breast surgeons throughout South King, Pierce, Thurston, Jefferson and Kitsap counties, designed for newly diagnosed patients. These kits include a list of local support groups, books on nutrition and survival, and a list of suggested questions to ask physicians from diagnosis through treatment and survivorship. Each kit is provided free of charge.
A comprehensive library with educational books about breast and other cancers is also available at the Center. Although operating hours are Tuesday through Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., a variety of exercise classes, support groups and even a book club take place during off hours.
Help support the center on April 14 during the Living Pink Pageant at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. Presented by LeCher Productions, this pageant will become a celebration and commemoration of breast cancer survivors. Tickets are $20 for adults, and $10 for youth, on sale now at www.bcrcwa.org. And don’t miss out on a chance to win a brand-new pink kayak – purchase your raffle tickets in advance for $10. The drawing will take place during the event.
The Breast Cancer Resource Center is located at 3502 S. 12th St. For more information, visit www.bcrcwa.org and also find them on Facebook.
See the companion story The power of one for additional information.