Many of you know someone with breast cancer. It could be your mother, sister, or wife. A friend or co-worker. One in eight women contract the disease. Forty-thousand die from it every year.
Breast cancer struck my family in 1997. My stepmother went for her regular mammogram and doctors discovered the rogue cells. At the time, Faith Fancher was a popular reporter at KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland. You may remember Faith's brave public battle with the disease and her dogged efforts to educate others about the importance of early detection.
When Faith was going through debilitating chemotherapy treatments she was blessed with good insurance. When she was too sick to work, she didn't have to worry about where she wound find money to pay for food or keep the lights on. She had a supportive spouse.
She realized others weren't as fortunate. If a woman is working a low-wage job, she doesn't get paid medical leave. She might be too sick to work but she still has children to take care of and bills to pay.
Faith and a group of her friends, many of whom were fellow Bay Area journalists, founded a nonprofit organization called Friends of Faith Inc. to provide assistance to low-income and underinsured women -- and occasionally men -- who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. (I am the board treasurer.)
Faith's breast cancer was especially aggressive and finally killed her in 2003. After her death, the remaining Friends of Faith board members vowed to continue Faith's mission and honor her memory.
For 10 years now, the annual Faith Fancher Breast Cancer Challenge has raised funds to help breast cancer survivors. This year, the walk takes place Saturday, Aug. 23, which would have been Faith's 64th birthday. The major sponsor this year as in past years is FedEx. Last year the 5-K walk raised more than$100,000 to fund organizations that provide direct services to breast cancer survivors as well as emergency cash grants.
Friends of Faith has raised close to $1.5 million since its inception in 1997.
"Faith wanted to provide a financial bridge to help low-income women from the time they were diagnosed and could not work to the time that social services would kick in because there was always a lag," said Thelma Simmons, Friends of Faith grant committee chair.
Over the years, the nonprofit has funded transportation to and from medical appointments for breast cancer survivors, Spanish-language and Cantonese interpreters to assist non-English speakers during their doctor appointments, mammograms for high-risk women under 40, food, clothing, rent, and homeopathic treatments -- among other services.
"It's really been a labor of love," said Rosie Allen, chair of this year's breast cancer challenge. "So many women have lost jobs and medical insurance so the need for the kind of fundraising we do is probably greater than ever."
Friends of Faith gives a big chunk of the money raised to fund the East Bay Breast Cancer Emergency Fund, administered by the Women's Cancer Resource Center. It gives one-time emergency cash grants to breast cancer survivors of up to $600. Faith started the fund in February of 2003 with a $10,000 grant -- eight months before her death in October during breast cancer awareness month.
The East Bay Breast Cancer Emergency Fund has given $500,000 to more than 500 breast cancer survivors. Other organizations also now contribute to the fund.
Breast cancer survivors get referred by their hospital social worker. Women have used the grants to pay for food, medicine, health insurance, rent and other necessities.
"There is nobody else in the East Bay giving money," says Dolores Moorehead, client services manager at the Women's Cancer Resource Center. "The fund is definitely a lifesaver because without it, women would have had nowhere else to turn."
Join the Faith Fancher Breast Cancer Challenge to raise funds for this worthy cause. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., the walk starts at 10 a.m. It's a good idea to register in advance online http://www.faithfancher5k.org/ though you are also welcome to sign up at the event. I welcome you to join Tammy's Trailblazers team.
Last year, more than 900 walkers came out from across the Bay Area for a wonderful day of family fun.
Help us break 1,000 this year.
Tammerlin Drummond is a columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Her column runs Thursday and Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com or follow her at Twitter.com/tammerlin.