Breast Cancer Goes Public; It Used to Be That the Disease Was Only Mentioned in Whispers; That's No Longer the Case

Article excerpt

Byline: Carrie Resch

Breast cancer, once a taboo subject, is no longer a suffer-in-silence disease. With support groups and awareness campaigns across the nation, breast cancer advocates are hoping to educate the masses and destigmatize the disease, all in the fight to end breast cancer.

Breast cancer awareness started coming to the forefront after former first lady Betty Ford's public battle with breast cancer in 1974. It came at the height of the feminist movement and women's health movement.

In the '80s and '90s, breast cancer awareness organizations were developed, such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, founded in 1980. That organization reports that in 1982 many people wouldn't even say the words "breast cancer" aloud. National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, an entire month dedicated to breast cancer awareness during the month of October, was started in 1985. The emergence of the pink ribbon that symbolizes breast cancer awareness came about in the early '90s.

There are now countless groups dedicated to breast cancer awareness, education, and advocacy nationally and internationally. Every group has its niche, but they are all united in one goal - to end breast cancer.

Locally, First Coast News anchor Jeannie Blaylock and her former co-worker, Donna Deegan, are responsible for creating breast cancer awareness groups. Though their campaigns were started locally, they now have national attention.

Blaylock developed Buddy Check 12 in 1992 in partnership with Baptist Health. The idea is for friends or family to remind each other to do their monthly breast self-examinations on the 12th of every month. Now, 20 years after she started Buddy Check 12, many national and international news organizations are implementing their own Buddy Check 12 reminders at their news networks.

Deegan, former First Coast News anchor, retired from the station on Aug. 31 to focus on her breast cancer foundation. A three-time breast cancer survivor, Deegan founded The Donna Foundation in June 2003. In 2008, Deegan and Mayo Clinic oncologist and breast cancer researcher Edith Perez co-founded The 26.2 with Donna marathon. Proceeds from the marathon helped launch the Breast Cancer Translational Genomics Initiative at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. That project is researching cancer-causing genes and the goal is to one day customize individual treatment plans for breast cancer patients. Seventy percent of the proceeds from the marathon go into funding the initiative. The 26.2 with Donna is expecting to draw 12,000 registered runners from all 50 states and more than 20 countries for the sixth annual marathon on Feb. 17, according to the organization.

Local breast cancer support groups such as Mayo Clinic's Pink Sisters and Friends and Women's Center of Jacksonville Bosom Buddies exist to support patients diagnosed with the disease. …