What Komen St. Louis Means to Me

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“Here’s what Komen means to me: HOPE! I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 42. I had no prior family history, so this really came as a surprise. As I left my physician’s office with a folder that had a big pink ribbon on it, to say the least I was discouraged. Inside this folder was a lot of information, and I noticed a lot of it had been produced by the Susan G. Komen organization. 

My process of determining a course of treatment to fight the cancer took what seemed like a lifetime. During this time, I went to Mercy Hospital’s cancer center and talked with a social worker. Again, I was given more information and again I saw the Komen name. Komen’s mission is to eradicate breast cancer, but by providing information regarding the disease, they also give those fighting the fight against breast cancer HOPE! I needed it then, and my involvement now as a Komen St. Louis volunteer is to ensure that HOPE can be given to women in our community each time they hear the terrible words that they have breast cancer.”

– Tina Seidel, Breast Cancer Survivor and Komen St. Louis Volunteer

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Komen St. Louis Community Partner: St. Clair County Health Department’s Wellness for Women

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The St. Clair County Health Department has provided breast cancer screenings to women in the Metro East for more than a decade.

“We are proud to have helped so many women have the peace of mind of knowing they do not have breast cancer,” says Kathy Weisenstein, outreach and prevention manager at St. Clair County Health Department. “We are also proud that we have helped many women get their breast cancer diagnosed so they could begin to get the treatment they needed.”

St. Clair County’s Wellness for Women program works in conjunction with the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. During the current Komen St. Louis grant year, Wellness for Women is providing more than 200 screening mammograms for low-income, uninsured women and low-income women with high insurance deductibles. This is the 11th year of Komen St. Louis funding for St. Clair’s program.

“Our challenges have always been that we have to work within the constraints of our funding,” says Kathy. “In a perfect world, all women could get the screenings and treatment they need without the worry of how they will pay for it.”

While hundreds of screenings are done each year, more women need these services than can possibly be served.

“Komen St. Louis has been invaluable in getting the word out about the importance of breast cancer screenings,” says Kathy. “We always notice an increase in calls in June around the Race for the Cure and in October during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We value the funding from Komen St. Louis that allows us to provide more screenings to the women reaching out to us.”

In 2012, Komen St. Louis granted nearly $3.1 million to 25 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including St. Clair County Health Department’s Wellness for Women program. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, treatment, education and support services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

120 Days

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We’re 120 days away from a milestone event in our community: the 15th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure.

In four months, tens of thousands will gather in downtown St. Louis, united for one cause and one mission: to save lives and end breast cancer forever.

On June 15, we’ll celebrate breast cancer survivors. We’ll honor loved ones who have lost their battle with the disease. We’ll raise money for local breast health services and groundbreaking breast cancer research.

As we count down the days, we hope we can count on you to join us.

Register now for our 15th Race on June 15th.

Why I Love Komen St. Louis

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“I love seeing the awe in someone’s face who is participating in the Komen St. Louis Race for the first time. I love seeing friends come together who haven’t seen each other since last year’s Race. I love to help out a friend by going to her doctor’s appointment and taking notes so she’ll have the instructions she needs for her next steps. I love seeing someone relax just a bit when they have been given a piece of information that will help them through their breast cancer journey.

Every time I think of the great things Komen St. Louis does, I always think of my passion for the mission. My small involvement in eradicating breast cancer is the one gift I can still give to my mother.”

– Sandy Simmons, Komen St. Louis Volunteer

A Previvor’s Story: Joanne Kelly

A previvor is a survivor of a predisposition to cancer.

It takes courage to undergo genetic testing and uncover one’s risks for developing breast cancer. And it takes courage to process all of the complexities of cancer and still encourage others to take action. Joanne Kelly, a breast and ovarian cancer previvor, possesses the courage to go through all this and still maintain a positive outlook.

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Joanne Kelly

Joanne has lived with the possibility of developing cancer ever since her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and her aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
Approximately five to 10 percent of breast cancers in the United States are linked to an inherited genetic mutation. Despite knowing her risk early on, it was not until years later that Joanne decided to proceed with genetic testing.

“When I was 20, I did not want to have the test done; I did not want to know,” says Joanne. “As I matured in my career as an oncology nurse, I wanted to know the risk.”

Following the advice of a coworker, Joanne spoke with Suzanne Mahon, founder of the Hereditary Cancer Program at Saint Louis University Cancer Center and a Komen St. Louis grant recipient. Once the two met for genetic counseling, Mahon coordinated the genetic testing, Joanne’s mother was tested first, and the testing revealed she carried the BRCA1 mutation. Subsequent test results determined Joanne also carried this genetic mutation.

“It is very, very important to have genetic counseling before you have genetic testing done. It’s a big piece of information for the rest of your family, for your children and your children’s children,” says Joanne. “To have someone help you process that information is important. I kind of knew my risk already with my family history. To know for sure was certainly overwhelming. It was also very empowering to know that I could hopefully prevent cancer.”

Devastated yet emboldened by the news of her risk of developing cancer, Joanne decided to take action. She opted for a double mastectomy in 2008 and a hysterectomy/oophorectomy in 2010.

“Having surgery has taken away the cloud over my head,” says Joanne. “It’s been four years since I’ve had the mastectomy. Prior to the surgery, I had the internal struggle of dealing with having cancer down the line.”

Through it all, Joanne credits her husband and children with keeping her going. With their support, she has been empowered to share her experience as she educates and empowers other women.

“What motivates me are the hundreds of women who will come after me,” says Joanne. “I want to be an example that knowledge is power. I can be a voice to encourage women to know their risk, to know that it’s going to be OK.”