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Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with breast cancer; are currently in treatment; are years out from your diagnoses; or just want to help eradicate breast cancer – the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation (VBCF) is here for you.

Let us keep you informed about the latest breast cancer headlines and what’s going on at VBCF! Sign up for the VBCF Connection, our monthly e-newsletter, to learn about upcoming events, advocacy issues, chapter news, and how you can make a difference to Virginians facing breast cancer.

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Conference: Advocating for your Breast Health

Advocating for Your Breast HealthDownload a Flyer

Date: Saturday, February 27, 2016
Location: Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital – Education Center
2 Bernardine Drive, Newport News, VA 23602
Cost: $10 (Food & Refreshments included)

The Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation invites you to a half-day conference where you can learn about how you can be your own best health advocate. A panel of experts will speak on important and timely topics concerning breast health, including the latest research trends and what resources are available in your area.

Our Panel:

Elizabeth Carter, RN, BSN, OCN
Breast Cancer Patient Navigator
Riverside Cancer Center

Johnathan Hays, MD
Hampton Roads Radiology Associates

Crystal Moore, MD, PhD
Anatomic & Clinical Pathologist
Hampton VA Medical Center

Nicole Wood, MS, CGC
Genetic Counselor
Virginia Oncology Associates


Hold Your Breath, Spare Your Heart

New technique is sparing women heart damage associated with radiation treatment for breast cancer

Breast-Cancer-TreatmentThe University of Virginia Health System is empowering women with an easy and painless way to spare the heart damage associated with radiation for breast cancer.  The technique, known as voluntary deep inspiratory breath hold (DIBH), requires that patients take and hold a deep breath for up to 20 seconds, allowing their care providers to target radiation to exactly where it is needed while avoiding cardiac tissue.

“With this technique, we have a more effective and lower cost way to spare the heart, and we get two things. We get separation of the heart from the chest wall and we also get immobility, which we love in radiation. We don’t want people moving. So it keeps our target still in a patient-friendly way and it also moves the heart out of the way,” said UVA radiation oncologist Monica Morris, MD.

UVA’s technique has been demonstrated, in papers published in peer-reviewed journals, to reduce the radiation exposure to the heart significantly, even beyond the use of more expensive approaches, while still producing outcomes as successful as the traditional treatment approach. Other attempts at using breathing regulation to spare the heart, such as active breathing control (ABC), require a mouthpiece that forcibly controls breathing; with UVA’s technique, the patient is in control.

“Patients really love it because they’re participating in their treatment and care,” Morris said.

Patients are given electronic goggles that show them a virtual gauge tracking their breath holding. By watching the visual feedback, patients can ensure they’re holding their breath appropriately.  If the patient moves out of position, the radiation beam automatically turns off.

“The patient’s care team, meanwhile, uses advanced imaging to view inside the body on not just one but two planes, creating a three-dimensional depiction. This allows for an extremely precise approach to administering the radiation, allowing the team to avoid having the radiation beam pass through the heart.” said UVA medical physicist Krishni Wijesooriya, PhD.

“The imaging for positional accuracy, the procedure of voluntary deep inspiratory breath hold and patient cooperation via visual bio feedback – having them play a role – those three components together are what make our program successful,” Wijesooriya said.

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Chapter Member Receives Human Rights Award


Lydia Stewart

Great teachers affect not only their students; they inspire their communities to support efforts that lead to a better world. Osbourn Park High School teacher Lydia Stewart was honored on January 19 by the Prince William County Human Rights Commission for the work she does to advance the cause of equality for all people.

Stewart, a special education teacher and educator for nearly 25 years, has spent much of her career advocating for and serving students with profound disabilities. She created a club at Osbourn Park High School, Ordinary People Doing Outstanding Things Together, to allow intellectually disabled students to participate in important school activities and showcase their successes. From field trips to assisting office staff, from science projects to inviting staff to a Thanksgiving celebration, the club creates opportunities for students to have the most complete high school experience possible.

She identifies the interests and abilities of each student in her class and makes a significant effort to match the students with meaningful work in the community, involving them in community-based instruction. As a result, her students gain valuable work experience, and their self-esteem grows and they see more possibilities for their lives. They are routinely invited to return to job sites. When employers observe her students’ performance at work sites it positively impacts the way the community sees students with disabilities.

Stewart is also the president of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation-Prince William County Chapter; she serves as the director for both the A&E Youth Choir and the Senior Choir at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. In recognition of her commitment to the community and youth, she was Volunteer of the Year in 2011 for the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation¬-Prince William County Chapter; and Potomac Mills Mall “Role Model” Award Recipient in 2011. Stewart was named the Prince William County Teacher of the Year in 2011-12, received the prestigious Washington Post Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award for 2012, and was named the Region IV Virginia Teacher of the Year, a highly competitive award for a region that spans 14 counties and six cities.


In Remembrance – Kat Werner

Kathleen (Kat) Werner


VBCF was deeply saddened to learn of the sudden passing of a member of our advocacy committee, Kat Werner. Kat passed away on Sunday, September 23, just a week after giving birth to her fourth child. She was 37 years old.

Kat was a tireless, passionate breast cancer advocate and she will be greatly missed.

Read more about Kat here.

Welcome to our new website!

Blog post by: Lisa Boudreaux, Communications Manager

We are very excited to launch VBCF’s new website today and we are hoping that you will find it welcoming and informative.   Our longtime supporters have probably noticed that we have been freshening up our look in the past few months.

I thought I would take a few minutes to share with you the vision behind our new look.   In design, circles can symbolize a number of things including movement, energy, femininity and community.  The circles speak to VBCF’s grassroots origin. VBCF began small, like the inner ring of circles.  As VBCF has grown our impact has radiated outward into our local communities and beyond.

We wanted our website and our materials to reflect the energy here at VBCF.  We are energized and committed to eradicating breast cancer by January 1, 2020.  We hope you will join us and be a part of it.

You will notice that we’ve made it easy for you to follow us on Facebook and twitter, so friend and follow us if you haven’t already!   You can turn to our Facebook page for information about upcoming events and things going on at VBCF.   Follow us on Twitter to read breaking news about breast cancer.

Take a look around and come back often!

VBCF: The Early Years

Blog post by:  Mary Jo Kahn, VBCF Co-Founder

Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation began with nothing, really nothing, but a handful of angry women.  That may sound harsh, but there are things you should know about breast cancer 20 years, even 40 years, ago.

When my mother was diagnosed in the 60’s, the words breast and cancer were almost never said in public and people whispered them in private.  Twenty some years later, some things had changed.  Cancer could be discussed in the open, even breasts could be, but breast cancer was still whispered, as if it were something embarrassing to have.  Meanwhile, the lifetime risk of having the disease had risen steadily from 1 in 20 when my mother was diagnosed to 1 in 9 when my sister and I were diagnosed in 1989.  Yet even with this startling rise in incidence, there was no press coverage, there was no public out cry, there was no special outlay of research money to combat this disease. Breast cancer was a silent epidemic.

The founders of VBCF met in a breast cancer support group at MCV after our diagnoses.  It was a time in America when women were shaking their heads and were wondering what was going on here.  We felt like women were dropping like flies, yet no one seemed concerned about helping us.  Then we got angry!

In the spring of 1991, Patti Goodall, because of a chemo complication, was in the hospital watching the Today Show.  That day they were interviewing Elenor Pred who was organizing a Mother’s Day Rally inSan Franciscoto raise awareness about the breast cancer epidemic. Patti picked up the phone and called 411San Franciscoand asked for Elenor Pred.  Low and behold, there was only one, and she and Elenor had a long conversation.

When Patti came back to support group she was fired up as was her good friend, partner in breast cancer, and another member of our little support group, Sherry Kohlenberg.  It really did not take much persuasion to talk the rest of us and a few members of the autologous bone marrow transplant support group into following Elenor into action, even if we did not have any idea what that meant. We started planning our own Mother’s Day Rally.  Footnote:  it was exactly 4 weeks until Mother’s Day, not exactly a reasonable time frame for pulling off a statewide rally.

Undeterred, on Mother’s Day, 1991, on the Capitol grounds by the BellTower, we had our first Mother’s Day Rally.  The support group and some family members got together at my house and made posters. We had our first T-shirts made.  We had speakers.  Dr. Harry Bear was one of those speakers, if my memory is correct.  Most importantly, we got press coverage!  Our children had made some really sweet posters that were on the front page of the next day’s newspaper.  As a result of the rally, The Richmond Times Dispatch did a whole story on the current state of breast cancer and our nascent organization’s efforts to eradicate it.  We had met our first goal:  to raise awareness.

After the rally was over, the five founding members of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation, Patti Goodall, Sherry Kohlenberg, Phoebe Antrim, my sister, Judith Ellis, and me, knew we had another goal yet to meet.  We needed to make sure enough research money was available not just to make progress on breast cancer, but enough to actually eradicate the disease.  Most of us had young children.  What we were fighting for was prevention.

Patti continued her conversations with Elenor and soon learned of a meeting Elenor was planning in Washington,D.C.  Patti had to work and could not go. She called me and I was able to rearrange my schedule.  The next day, my 12-year-old daughter, Michelle, and I took the train to Washington and began an unbelievable journey.

Our first meeting was with organizations that had been communicating with Elenor Pred after her TV appearance.  Besides Richmond and San Francisco, there were groups there from Arizona,Boston,Vermont,San Diegoand three or four other locations.  At some point in the meeting, I took a step back and studied the people around the table. Separately, but simultaneously, there were strong, intelligent, articulate women from all over America saying enough is enough. It was a true grassroots movement, not lead from the top down, but by the unified determination of many.  At that moment, I realized we were an unstoppable force…and we would succeed.

Our little band of Elenor’s groups headed for the National Cancer Institute and met with the Director there and many of his heads of departments.  We were totally stonewalled.   Although Elenor kept interrupting to say they should be listening rather than talking, the director insisted $30 million was more than enough money, and we should be satisfied with the progress they were making.  Later that year, Bernadine Healy, the first woman Director of the National Institutes of Health, betrayed all women by telling Congress that it would be dangerous to allocate any more money to breast cancer research.

The next day, there was a meeting of approximately 100 other breast cancer groups, to explore joining together in some sort of coalition with a unified goal of securing more funds for breast cancer research.  I remember introducing myself that day as being from Richmond,Virginia representing a group to be named later.  We may not have a settled on a name yet, but we knew we would be part of this coalition.  To eradicate breast cancer it was going to take Virginia and 49 other states.

Next, we invited every person who might possibly be interested to an organizational meeting in my living room.  Maybe 20 people came.  That night, we named ourselves, decided to be a statewide organization, decided to incorporate and explore becoming a non-profit.  I was made president, possibly by default; I was the only one who had time to do it.

We immediately volunteered to be on the working group that later became the Board of Directors of National Breast Cancer Coalition.  We were the first Chairs of the Grassroots Taskforce for NBCC.  There we took what we had just learned about organizing breast cancer advocates in Virginia to the other states.  We helped them to put on Mother’s Day Rallies, to form legislative telephone trees, and to recruit membership.   Holding a seat on the Board of NBCC for twenty years has meant twenty years of hard, time consuming, financially challenging work.  Few organizations in the country have contributed as much as VBCF has to the national, as well as, the state, efforts against breast cancer.

I was recently reminded of our first trip to Washington to meet with our Congressmen.  Twenty years ago, we were relatively young women, some of us not yet forty and we were scheduled to meet with Senator John Warner’s health aide.   The aide made the mistake of saying to us, “Well, everyone has to die of something.”  We had a reporter with us that day and the aide ended up being quoted in the paper. Despite his aide’s faux pas, Senator Warner became our biggest advocate in Congress and the following year became crucial in securing research funds through the Department of Defense.

As Grass Roots Chairs for NBCC we were key in organizing the Do the Write Thing Campaign.  Each state was asked to send letters to each Congressperson and the President equal to the number of new cases of breast cancer in their state that year.  Our number was around 4200, we sent 10’s of 1000’s.  Nationally, we needed 43,000 letters; over 2 million were collected from around the country.  The overwhelming success of the Do the Write Thing Campaign proved we were a force with which Congress must reckon.

The votes in Congress for the breast cancer research money that year went down to the wire.  There were a few Senators who were in tough races for re-election in 1992 and were courting the women’s vote.  At the last moment, these Senators reversed their no votes. When the other Senators, who had voted no, realized the bill was going to pass, they rushed back to change their votes to yes—the vote was overwhelmingly in our favor!  We won our fight for $300 million more!

Breast cancer research monies have continued to increase because you are still persistent and still a force to be reckoned with.  There is so much history that the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation has made and so many more accomplishments for which you are responsible.  I am so very proud of you.  Many times pioneers, who start organizations, are the organization and when they leave, the organization folds.  That is not what happened to the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation. Since the founding members and a tough band of early volunteers laid the groundwork, you have matured, thrived, and grown into a more powerful force against breast cancer each year. I had to leave after my second bought with breast cancer around 1999.  Others retired for other reasons. Many have died.

I know you have all felt the pain of losing a friend or loved one to breast cancer.  It is in their memory, it is for yours and my future, and it is for our collective children that you continue to fight.  The eradication of breast cancer is going to happen.  Trust me, you are still an unstoppable force and you will succeed.

Breast Cancer is More than a Pink Ribbon

Blog post by:  Lisa Boudreaux, VBCF Communications Manager

At VBCF we believe that breast cancer is more than a pink ribbon – it is women and men and families. It is scientists and doctors, legislators and advocates. It is drugs and procedures. This is a battle. There are scars. There are victories and losses. Connecting it all is the pink ribbon.

It’s hard not to think of the pink ribbon when you hear the words breast cancer. Come October the ribbon is everywhere you look. It’s on television, in commercials and the news. It’s at your newsstand, in your gym, in your doctor’s office. It’s at the supermarket, in nearly every aisle.

Love it or hate it, the pink ribbon has become a formidable tool. It prompts people to walk, run, and march. It motivates purchases and donations. We see the pink ribbon as a conversation starter. Thirty years ago, cancer was not discussed, and certainly not breast cancer. When we are out in the community, people will see our pink ribbon and come over to start a conversation – about their diagnosis, or that of a family member or friend.

Sometimes they ask about symptoms they may be experiencing. Each October, VBCF hosts the Pink Ribbon Campaign. We distribute ribbons all over the state – and at VBCF, our ribbons come with education.

Each ribbon is attached to a card with information about breast health – in English and Spanish. The cards also give information about the VA Department of Health’s Every Woman’s Life program which provides screening and treatment to the uninsured and underinsured.

We believe the ribbon must lead us all somewhere – to a time when breast cancer is gone. Education gives us a voice to call for that action. The word “advocate”, at its root means voice. VBCF’s mission is to eradicate breast cancer through education and advocacy. VBCF is the place for anyone who wants to see the end of breast cancer. Please join us as an advocate, an educator or a donor.

Lend your voice to the fight.

The Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to the eradication of breast cancer through education and advocacy.

Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation
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Suite 102
Henrico, VA 23230

800-345-8223 | 804-285-1200

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