Two years ago, Joanne Wilson discovered a mass in her breast. New to her job, she hadn’t qualified yet for employer-sponsored health insurance. And her diagnosis wasn’t good: Stage III cancer.
“You don’t think about health insurance until you don’t have it and something happens,” said Wilson, 51. “It was a lot of pressure on me.”
Thanks in part to funds raised from the annual Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure®, Wilson found treatment at Siteman Cancer Center.
The journey hasn’t been easy, of course. Wilson underwent surgery and multiple rounds of chemotherapy and suffers from lingering nerve damage. She hasn’t been able to return to work.
“But I’m here,” she said, celebrating seven months of remission. “Thank God I am here.”
The assistance Wilson received makes her an enthusiastic supporter of the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, to be held June 13 in downtown St. Louis. She’ll participate in the event with her team from Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church of Jennings.
“I would tell anyone, ‘walk the race, run the race, wear your pink, do whatever you’ve got to do to raise awareness about this horrible, horrible disease,’ ” Wilson said.
St. Louis-area Race participants have raised tens of millions of dollars to fight breast cancer. Of the net proceeds, 75 percent stays in St. Louis to help Siteman and other organizations provide breast cancer screenings and patient navigation support.
With Komen St. Louis funds, Siteman has increased the number of area women who have been screened and reduced 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 a medical oncology navigator for support during treatment.
“Komen St. Louis’ help is essential in Siteman’s outreach efforts,” said Susan Kraenzle, RN, manager of support services at Siteman. “Without Komen we simply would not be able to provide screening to the underserved at the levels we do.”
Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure registration fees and donations also fund research. To date, Washington University scientists at Siteman have received more than $20 million in Komen funding. The most recent grants were $450,000 each to identify:
- New therapeutic options for hormone resistance caused by estrogen receptor gene aberrations in breast cancer patients. Jieya Shao, PhD, a Washington University assistant professor of medicine and Siteman Cancer Center member, is the lead researcher.
- Estrogen receptor positive breast cancer patients who might not respond to hormone therapy, and to identify possible alternative therapies. Christopher Maher, PhD, a Washington University assistant professor of medicine, assistant director of the McDonnell Genome Institute and Siteman Cancer Center member, leads this project.
Race for the Cure participants in St. Louis make the grants possible, including the one that helped Wilson get the treatment she needed.
“I would not be alive today if it wasn’t for Komen St. Louis and Siteman putting me in touch with available resources,” she said. “That was one less thing I had to worry about.”
To register for or donate to the 2015 Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, visit www.komenstlouis.org/Race.