THE CALENDAR THAT SAVES LIVES
By Marleen M. Quint
Women’s Health and Environmental Advocate
In 1993 I was diagnosed with breast cancer after many months of battling with doctors to find out why my left breast was bleeding from a milk duct. My cancer was missed by two mammograms yet I insisted on further screening. They not only found breast cancer, they discovered it to be a relatively rare form of cancer throughout my breast duct system. The cancer was, fortunately, non-invasive and I am still here, 14 years later, trying to help other women avoid the stumbling blocks which made the road to my diagnosis and treatment a living nightmare.
My personal bout with breast cancer introduced me to Wanna Wright and, later, Jackie Pugh. Both women are founders of the African American Breast Cancer Task Group (AABCTG) with the support of the Contra Costa Breast Cancer Partnership. Ten years ago this task group put out the first breast cancer Celebrate Calendar aimed at the African American community. The calendar displayed beautiful photos and moving stories of women who had fought and survived breast cancer. Their stories were both inspirational and informative. It was seen as a much needed educational tool to help reduce the high mortality rate of breast cancer among African American women. Both Wanna Wright and Jackie Pugh are veterans of this epidemic disease.
Faith Fancher, Bay Area journalist, news reporter and crusader in the fight against breast cancer, was one of the earlier Celebrate Calendar subjects in 2001. Faith was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 at the age of 47 and suffered a reoccurrence on the same side of the original cancer in 1999, two-and-a-half years after a complete mastectomy . Faith was quoted in the calendar as saying, " …I am cancer-free. Praise the Lord, the future is mine!" Tragically, Faith had a second reoccurrence and lost her battle with breast cancer on October 19, 2003. She was 53 years old.
The new 2007 - 2009 Celebrate Calendar is featuring another local celebrity, Ardella Carter, a 100 year old breast cancer veteran. Ardella was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 57 back in 1964 when her right breast was removed. Nineteen years later, she tried to convince doctors to check her left breast. "I knew there was something wrong," Ardella said to a news reporter recently. Doctors x-rayed her left breast and found no signs of breast cancer. Ardella was not convinced and insisted the doctors remove her breast. Her doctors finally complied and, to their surprise, it was cancerous.
The calendar has expanded this year to reflect the larger community of women who’ve fought and won the breast cancer war. This includes women from multi-racial and multi-cultural backgrounds. I am very privileged to be among these brave and beautiful models for the new Celebrate Calendar. My sister from Los Gatos and my best friend from Huntington Beach posed with me at the photo shoot. The three of us spent a memorable girls weekend together which included vodka martinis, butchering old songs to a karaoke accompaniment and reminiscing about our more youthful and adventurous days. The photo in the upcoming calendar captures it all.
As I sit here looking at a photograph of a vibrant Faith Fancher, with her youthful face and dimpled smile, I ask myself, "How could such a young, healthy looking woman die within three short years after this photo was taken?" Yet, on the other hand, I had the privilege of meeting a very healthy and youthful 100 year old woman who beat the disease twice and lived many, many years later to share her life story with us today. This disease doesn’t seem to make any sense. Ten years after the first Celebrate Calendar was released, there are still too many women of all ethnicities developing breast cancer and dying from the disease with no apparent rhyme or reason. Ten years later, we still do not have a cure, do not know how to prevent the disease and are not doing nearly enough to identify and eliminate the environmental links to this devastating cancer that maims and kills thousands of women every year. It is in the name of Faith Fancher, Ardella Carter and every woman and family affected by breast cancer that we need to keep telling women’s breast cancer stories and providing the much needed resource information to all our communities through the Celebrate Calendars of the AABCTG. Wanna Wright summarized the value of these calendars best,
"It has exceeded our expectations. We get women saying, ‘That calendar saved my life.’ "
TO RECEIVE A CALENDAR OR MAKE A DONATION
The 2007 - 2009 Celebrate Calendar is scheduled to be released in October. Some of the calendars will be handed-out, free of charge, to churches, hospitals and non-profits throughout various Bay Area communities. You can also receive calendars if you wish to become a sponsor by donating to the African American Breast Cancer Task Group. All profits will go to the publishing and distribution of Celebrate Calendars. For more information please contact Wanna Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marleen M. Quint
Originally from Hawaii, Marleen was also raised in Japan and Guam. Her background is extremely eclectic and ranges from working in the field of cartography to performing as a singer, dancer and actress.
In 1990, Marleen was diagnosed with thyroid disease followed by breast cancer less than two years later. She lost both breasts and her thyroid with no family history that would predispose her to either disease. After much research, Marleen is convinced that environmental pollution played a significant role in the development of her life-threatening diseases.
Since 1995, Marleen has dedicated herself as a women's health advocate. She has served as a consultant for several health organizations including the National Cancer Institute in Washington, DC and UCSF Mt. Zion Cancer Center in San Francisco.
Marleen has combined her skills to develop a women's health presentation which delves into the connections between the politics of gender bias and the level of morbidity suffered by women. Marleen is an active speaker in the San Francisco Bay Area.