Pink balloons swayed in the autumn sun as dozens of women, men and children formed an enthusiastic parade of pink, spreading Breast Cancer awareness for this very special occasion.
The party gathered Saturday morning at the Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillville, celebrating not only The Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals’ fifth anniversary, but the survivors who have walked in and out of their doors throughout the years.
For Jen Sanders, manager of the the Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals, it was also about empowering women.
“For us, it’s a huge milestone,” Sanders said. “We’ve been here fighting right alongside these women, and we want to celebrate that with them. It’s a way to encourage them all to keep striving, keep fighting.”
The party included free gifts, chair massages, manicures, raffles, blood pressure screenings, bone density screenings, Mary Kay Cosmetics consultations, bra fittings, information booths and a variety of vendors. Attendees also could schedule mammograms during and after the event.
The “Strive for Five” free 5K Walk/Run marked the first year the hospital hosted a walk, which wound around the campus sidewalks.
For Thalia Jackson-Rich, this was a celebration of eight years as a survivor.
“I celebrate every day,” Jackson-Rich said. “Especially on days like today. It’s great seeing the support out here, it may encourage someone somewhere to keep fighting. Breast cancer is not death.”
She came with her family, including her granddaughter’s grandmother, Toni James, who was also diagnosed with breast cancer. James is also a client of The Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center.
“It’s been a beautiful experience working with them,” James said. “Without them, this would have been way more difficult. They show you they really care. When I was in the hospital for something totally unrelated, they were calling me in my room to make sure I was ok and to check up on how I was doing. It shows you it’s a good thing you’re not in it by yourself.”
Breast cancer can be a scary topic, but Sanders said events like these make the center a place where women can feel at ease.
“When they come in here, we want them to feel more at ease, and not so clinical,” Sanders said. “We want them to walk in and say, ‘Hey, there’s my friends.’”
Sanders said, "Lake County has a profound problem that she and her staff are working hard to fix: Lake County has one of the lowest mammography screening rates, only 52%, resulting in having one of the highest rates of late stage diagnoses and consequently breast cancer deaths. She said about 48 percent of women haven’t been screened at the recommended age of 40. This knowledge fuels Sanders and her team every day, pounding the pavement and getting the word out.
“Anywhere there’s women, that’s where I go,” she said. “Anxiety is a big culprit of all of this. The more women are empowered with knowledge and information, the more we can prevent these things.”
Evelyn Morrison, manager of marketing and corporate communications at Methodist Hospitals, said in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, they are offering a $99 mammogram for those without insurance or with high deductible medical insurance programs if they schedule an appointment by November 15th.
“More women get an education and an idea of the importance of breast health with events like these,” Morrison said. “And we reach out to more women every year.”
For more information on the Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals, click here.