Everyone knows someone a mother, a sister, a daughter, and in rare cases, a man who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. About one out of every eight women in the United States will get the news one day with one in four of those younger than 50.
There is hope: Early detection and customized therapies have increased survival by about a decade in the majority of patients. And the pink troops are not giving up on the cure. They will be out en masse Saturday in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Bayfront Park, clad in pink shirts, pink shorts, and flamingo pink bras to raise funds for breast cancer research.
Some will be young single mothers like Andrea Nugent, 43, who are dedicated to helping patients in need. Some will be like Jessica LaBonte, 34, who is fighting the same disease that killed her loved ones. And others will be dedicated advocates like Rhonda M. Smith, 51, and Bibiana Salmon, 52, who know there remains work to be done.
Every little action counts. We have the ability to alleviate others suffering. We have the ability to change lives, Salmon said. We have to do everything we can to find the cure, because our little girls should not have to go through what we went through, or die of this disease.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
A tattooed beaded chain with an intertwined pink ribbon has surrounded Jessica LaBontes right ankle since she was 30.
When she was a teenager in New Hampshire, she remembers cancer had spread to her grandmothers bones, brain, and chest wall. She died June 30, 1991. A few years later, doctors found a small tumor in her mothers breast. Her seven-year battle included surgery, chemo, radiation, a stem cell transplant, and alternative treatments in Mexico. LaBonte was a University of New Hampshire student when the cancer cells got to her moms liver and killed her Sept. 7, 1999.
Ten years later while working in her dream job with The Miami Heat, LaBonte tested positive for a genetic mutation that increased her risk of contracting the disease. She increased surveillance and was diagnosed Oct. 19, 2011.
My diagnosis was similar to my moms, said the 34-year-old. Im determined to do everything I can to change the story.
She had surgery to remove both breasts in December. And with the help of her family, she opted for alternative treatments such as intravenous vitamin C infusions, colonics and a juice fast at a center for natural healing in New Hampshire. She returned to Miami in June and began chemo in August. Her University of Miami oncologist, Dr. Stefan Gluck, told her she is responding well to treatment.
THE BIONIC GIRL
Andrea Nugent was 39 when doctors found cancer in her breast, ovary and lymphatic system. When she got too sick during treatment to take care of her 2-year-old son Zachary Nelson, she said her Jamaican family rallied around her.
Im from Kingston. Its like that with Caribbean families. When somebody goes down, it goes unspoken, everyone gets together to help them get back up, Nugent said.
Her son is 6; she lives with him in Miramar.
During treatment, Nugent noticed not everyone had the support they needed. When she met a woman who was riding the bus home after chemo, she knew she had to help. After losing her job as a Liberty Mutual auditor, she spent her severance pay to start Bionic Girls, a non-profit organization in Pembroke Pines.