My Commitment to the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

Guest Writer: Jeania Lowery, SVP, Area Executive for the St. Louis and Kansas City Metro Area for Bank of America

Every year that I participate in the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, I am utterly amazed at our community’s continued dedication to raising funds for life-saving breast health programs and breast cancer research. Whether these participants, racers, spectators and volunteers know someone who has been affected by breast cancer or not, race day is always an inspiring and moving display of passion for women and creating awareness of breast health issues.

My journey with Komen started after the passing of my dear friend and mentor at Bank of America, Jan. She was a true inspiration to me and my fellow colleagues—always making sure to show our team the importance of life and the value of having a positive attitude in everything we do. Because of her, every year I take part in this race to honor her memory and do my part to give every woman a chance to live the long healthy life that Jan was unable to have.

Jeania and her daugher, Meagan

Jeania and her daugher, Meagan

This is a commitment that I have also been able to pass down and share with my daughter, Meagan. Through my involvement with the organization, Meagan has seen firsthand what a powerful impact this cause has for other women and has become just as passionate about the cause as me. Now, the race has become a time that we look forward to coming together to remember Jan and ensure her legacy lives on through the healthy lives of other women.

Fortunately, through my job at Bank of America, I am also able to support the Susan G. Komen effort in another way. Bank of America has been a longtime sponsor of the organization, and this year we have a larger presence than ever with sponsorships in 130 Komen Race events across the franchise.

Jeania and her team and the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

Jeania and her team and the 2013 Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure

At the local level, I am channeling my passion for the cause by working to get all lines of businesses involved in the race. Through our Bank of America’s Community Volunteers, I organize our employees to help volunteer at the survivor and volunteer tents as well as encourage fellow coworkers to take part in the race itself as a walker or runner. I also help to coordinate donations from our associates who cannot otherwise participate or donate their time on race day.

Thanks to funds raised through the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, Komen St. Louis is able to support local organizations offering a variety of breast health services to underserved and uninsured women, men and families who otherwise may not have access. These services include free mammograms, navigation through the health care system, and breast health education.

This year, I am honored to have the opportunity to take the stage to speak about my and Bank of America’s commitment to the Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure. I cannot wait to participate in the Komen St. Louis Race again on June 14 and am thrilled to lend my ongoing personal and professional support to this invaluable organization.

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Support Local Breast Cancer Programs One Bite at a Time During Dine Out for the Cure®

DineOut_Sauce_webbanner_2014Looking for an easy way to take action in the local fight against breast cancer? Just dine out for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner on Thursday, June 12, two days before the 16th Annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure®. Restaurants — and NEW this year, food trucks — across the St. Louis metro area will welcome patrons and donate a portion of their proceeds to Susan G. Komen® St. Louis during the 6th Annual Dine Out for the Cure®.

Since the inaugural Dine Out for the Cure in 2009, the event has raised more than $400,000 for local life-saving breast health and breast cancer services. Participating restaurants agree to donate 20, 35 or 50 percent of the day’s proceeds to the cause.

Restaurants like Three Kings Public House and Red Robin have participated in Dine Out and are strong supporters of the cause.

“Cancer impacts everyone, including some of our team members, customers and their family members,” says Colleen Schluter of Red Robin. “Some have made it and others unfortunately have not. This is our way of participating and helping with breast cancer research and eventually finding a cure.”

Red Robin has been a part of Dine Out for the Cure since the beginning in 2009. This year, eight Red Robin restaurants in the St. Louis area, including the Metro East, will take part in the event. Through their years of participation, Red Robin staff members have found ways of making the day an enjoyable experience for employees and customers alike.

“It’s a rewarding event,” says Colleen. “You can see the people that you know are there to help support the cause. Some are currently fighting breast cancer, others include families and friends of people who have fought.”

At Three Kings Public House, co-owner Ryan Pinkston has a personal reason to support Komen St. Louis and help end breast cancer forever. His mother is a breast cancer survivor.

“When we opened Three Kings, it really was a no-brainer to decide to take part in this,” says Ryan. “It’s our way of paying forward the prayers and favors for those who did it for my mom. We want to stay involved in the community and raise as much as possible. That’s what this event is all about.”

Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised locally stays here to fund breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation programs. The remaining 25 percent funds groundbreaking global breast cancer research, including research being done in St. Louis.

Visit komenstlouis.org for a complete list of participating restaurants and food trucks, hours of service, and locations categorized by neighborhood.

Race for the Cure Participants Support Breast Cancer Research, Services and Education in St. Louis

Siteman Cancer Center is fighting breast cancer on multiple fronts, thanks in part to the $20 million in grants Susan G. Komen® has awarded to Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital researchers and clinicians since 2008.

This funding is aiding the search for improved drug therapies, increasing access to breast screenings and educating women in the St. Louis area about breast health.

Cynthia Ma, MD, PhD

Cynthia Ma, MD, PhD

The impact can’t be underestimated, said Cynthia Ma, MD, PhD. Last year, Komen awarded her a four-year, $1 million grant aimed at improving drug therapies for breast cancer patients by fine-tuning how investigational drugs are tested.

“With Komen’s help, we intend to learn how to better select patients for clinical trials, based on their tumor types, so we can determine which drugs work best for each person,” said Ma, an associate professor of medicine and a Siteman research member.

The grant also is funding a more personalized approach to treating women with triple-negative breast cancer, one of the most aggressive forms of the disease.

Ma shares the grant with Shunqiang Li, PhD, a Washington University research instructor and Siteman research associate member. Matthew Ellis, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and leader of Siteman’s Breast Cancer Research Program, is a collaborator. Their project builds on past Komen-funded research at Washington University School of Medicine.

Anyone can contribute to the 16th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, to be held June 14. Since 1999, local Race participants have raised tens of millions of dollars to fight breast cancer. What they might not know is how much their contributions have assisted screening, research and other efforts in St. Louis.

Of the net proceeds raised from the local Race, 75 percent stays in St. Louis to help organizations such as Siteman provide breast cancer screening, education and other breast health services. For example, with Komen funds, Siteman has provided free mammograms to more than 3,200 underserved, low-income women per year.

Barnes_mammography van image“Komen’s help is essential in Siteman’s outreach efforts, and without them we simply would not be able to provide screening to the underserved at the levels we do,” said Susan Kraenzle, RN, manager of the Joanne Knight Breast Health Center at Washington University Medical Center.

Research grants are another way Race for the Cure registration fees and donations are put to work. Money raised at the Komen St. Louis Race and at Komen Race events nationwide has sent millions of dollars in Komen grants to Washington University scientists at Siteman.

Other such Komen-funded recipients aim to:

  • Develop a personalized breast cancer vaccine aimed at preventing recurrence of the disease. The project involves decoding the DNA of patients and identifying the differences between normal cells and cancer cells, then designing a vaccine for each patient using her own immune system to destroy the cancer cells. For the project, William Gillanders, MD, professor of surgery, received a $6.5 million Komen grant and is working with Elaine Mardis, PhD, co-director of The Genome Institute and the Robert E. and Louise F. Dunn Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine, and Ted Hansen, PhD, professor of pathology and immunology and of genetics.
  • Better identify which women with estrogen receptor-positive (ER-positive) breast cancer, the most common form of the disease, are at the highest risk of recurrence and to find more effective treatments for those individuals. Komen contributed a $4 million grant to the study by Ellis and co-recipients Mardis and Pascal Meier, PhD, of The Institute of Cancer Research in London.
  • Increase the number of area women who have been screened, and reduce the number who receive late-stage diagnoses. Services offered through the Breast Health Care for At-Risk Communities project include: education, outreach, diagnosis and referral to Siteman’s medical oncology navigator for support during treatment.

Race for the Cure participants in St. Louis and beyond make the grants possible.

“It moves me to see how our city turns out the way it does,” Kraenzle said. “I lost a sister to breast cancer, and I wish she were here to see this and know people are fighting for her and her kids.”

 

What Komen St. Louis Funding Can Do: Shereece’s Story

Late last year, when 52-year-old Shereece Gardner discovered a lump in her breast during a self- exam, she immediately contacted Susan G. Komen® St. Louis.

Shereece Gardner (photo by Elizabeth White)

Shereece Gardner (photo by Elizabeth White)

“I’ve participated in the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure for the past 11 years,” recalls Shereece. “At that point, everything I knew about breast cancer, I knew because of Susan G. Komen. So, I assumed they had the resources to point me in the right direction.”

After hearing about Shereece’s situation, a Komen St. Louis staff member referred her to the Breast HealthCare Center (BHCC) at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. With Komen St. Louis funding, the BHCC provides increased access to breast screening services, as well as education, prevention and early detection of breast cancer by providing screening and diagnostic mammograms.

During her first appointment, Shereece met with Theresa Taylor, an outreach coordinator at the BHCC. “I informed Shereece about our grant program, ‘Reaching the Underserved,’ which I knew could really help her out financially,” says Theresa.

Funded by a Komen St. Louis grant for more than 12 years, the BHCC Reaching the Underserved program provides MBMC with the resources to support uninsured and underinsured women throughout the region. The program’s services are provided for at-risk women ages 40-64 at the BHCC and on its digital mobile mammography van. Follow-up services are provided at the BHCC for women with mammography abnormalities.

After meeting with Theresa, Shereece underwent a 3D mammogram (digital breast tomosynthesis), which provides more detailed, higher resolution images of the breasts, making it easier to detect smaller cancers. Unfortunately, the 3D mammogram revealed a suspicious tumor, and a subsequent biopsy confirmed Gardner’s suspicion: she had stage two breast cancer. Shereece then met with Paul Yazdi, MD, to discuss her diagnosis, treatment options and prognosis. He explained everything thoroughly and sympathetically, reassuring her that she was in good hands.

Shereece with Dr. Paul Yazi (photo by Elizabeth White)

Shereece with Dr. Paul Yazi (photo by Elizabeth White)

“I absolutely adore Dr. Yazdi,” says Shereece. “He makes me feel like I’m his only patient, and he is always incredibly generous with his time. That means so much when you’re battling cancer.”

In January 2014, Shereece underwent a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy, which showed no signs of cancer in her lymph nodes. However, just to be safe, the medical team at the BHCC prescribed chemotherapy. Since February, Shereece has been coming to the hospital every three weeks to receive her chemo treatments during four-hour appointments.

“With breast cancer and chemo, there are good days and bad days, but I’m really thankful for the support of the medical team at MoBap’s Breast HealthCare Center,” says Shereece. “They have all been so wonderful and considerate. In fact, I get a call from someone on the team at least once or twice a month to check on me.”

Fortunately, all of Shereece’s breast cancer services — including the 3D mammogram, biopsies, lumpectomy and chemotherapy — are covered by the grant program. Without the support of the program, she wouldn’t be able to afford the cancer care she so desperately needs.

“I was honored to be part of the team that took care of Shereece. Being able to witness her courage and dignity in her fight against cancer is one of the most rewarding parts of my job,” says Dr. Yazdi. “I’m also happy to know that she was helped by the Komen grant program, which brings cancer care to many underserved women throughout the St. Louis community.”

Shereece’s last treatment is scheduled for June 18, four days after the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure. She is planning to participate in this year’s Race — as one of the survivors.

“This year, the Race has taken on a whole new meaning,” says Shereece. “Thanks to Susan G. Komen and MoBap, I’m getting the help I need to win my battle with breast cancer.”

Race for a World Without Breast Cancer

Race Large Banner_2014Every day of the year, Susan G. Komen St. Louis stays focused on its mission: to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures.

The inspiration for this mission is a promise made between two sisters.

Thirty years ago, Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Suzy Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise launched the global breast cancer movement. More than three decades later, Susan G. Komen® has changed how the world talks about breast cancer and is the only breast cancer organization attacking the disease on all fronts: in community outreach, research, education, advocacy and global work.

Here in St. Louis, Komen’s promise inspires the organization’s mission on a local level: meeting the breast health needs of the women, men and families in our community – especially those most in need and most at risk. Komen St. Louis funds local breast health and breast cancer programs serving those who may not otherwise have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers. Komen St. Louis also helps to fund groundbreaking global breast cancer research, including research happening right now in St. Louis.

Seventy-five percent of the net funds raised through the Komen St. Louis Race stays in the St. Louis community to fund innovative breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation programs. The remaining 25 percent goes toward groundbreaking global breast cancer research programs. Since 1999, Komen St. Louis funding has supported dozens of local organizations providing breast health services to those who may not otherwise have access.

More than 100 percent of the funds invested by Komen St. Louis since 1999 has remained in or returned to the St. Louis region.

The Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure is one event, held on one day, that helps make possible this year-round work in support of our mission. Everyone who registers for the Race, makes a donation or helps to fundraise is making an impact in the fight against breast cancer.

On June 14, celebrate breast cancer survivors and honor those who have lost their battle with the disease. Help raise money for local breast health services and global breast cancer research. Help keep an important promise – a promise made between two sisters that now gives hope to so many. On June 14, let’s race for a world without breast cancer.

Join us for the 16th Annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure on Saturday, June 14. Visit www.komenstlouis.org.

Why do you race? Share your story: prstories@komenstlouis.org.

Our Team’s Story: We Race for Eva

Race Large Banner_2014Guest Writer: Dawn Baldesi

Our story goes beyond my life but involves several others, both family and friends. My name is Dawn, and I am one of the very lucky ones. I was diagnosed with a rare genetic BRCA2 breast cancer after losing my sister, Debbie. My other sister, Sue, also was diagnosed, plus my father was going through stage 4 colon and prostate cancer.

After all this, I reconnected with a friend, Eva Lagage-Nettles, who shared the story of her fight with breast cancer with me and several other friends  – Kali, Diane and Lorri, who are also breast cancer survivors. Eva always gave us such hope; she never quit trying to educate us.

Eva and friends at their last luncheon with Eva

Eva and friends at their last luncheon with Eva

Eva’s husband moved their family back to St. Louis when Eva’s cancer had metastasized and treatments were just not enough to stop it any longer. Eva spent as much time with her family and friends as possible, always putting everyone else ahead of herself.

You can see the impact she had on the hearts she touched; just read the message below that her husband shared with all of us on Facebook the day after her service. That was the day all her friends decided we would continue to fight for her. In her memory, our team’s name is Eva’s Gang.

This will be our first time as a team at the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure.

Eva’s husband wrote (in part): “Evie, I said my last goodbye yesterday, sweetheart, encapsulated in my final love note to you, although I doubt anyone who was present needed to hear any public proclamations of my love for you. You would have been amazed at how many people showed up to see you off these past few days. The outpouring of love and support for myself and our kids is nothing short of breathtaking. You really did touch many, many lives in your time here. I always told you that your life was serving as an inspiration to others….”

Join us for the 16th Annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure on Saturday, June 14. Visit www.komenstlouis.org.

Why do you race? Share your story: prstories@komenstlouis.org.