Of the 1200 gathered in the Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom for the Celebrating Women Luncheon, the overwhelming majority was female. Well, duh! The event benefited Baylor Health Care System Foundation’s efforts to “to increase awareness and generate funding for breast cancer research, diagnosis and treatment.”
But before the ballroom filled, a private meet-and-greet with keynote speaker Joan Lunden took place high atop the Anatole in Ser with downtown Dallas serving as a glorious backdrop. Unlike years past when the pre-luncheon took place in the Wedgwood Room, this one had levels and tables for guests like Margo Goodwin, Di Johnston, Emilynn Wilson, Tucean Webb, Caren Kline, Barbara Stuart, Lindalyn Adams, Robyn Conlon, Pam Perella, Lyda Hill, Connie Yates and Isabell Novakov to wait in line for their photo opp with Joan and/or just have a cup of coffee and Danish.
All too soon, the group moved to the Chantilly Ballroom for the fundraising lunch. Following a dance performance, Luncheon Chair Nancy Carter with her underwriting Co-Chairs Beth Layton and Vicky Lattner by her side told why she had taken on the responsibility of putting the event together. It was her two friends/breast cancer survivors Sue Porter and Debbie Snell, who co-chaired the luncheon years ago. Upon learning their stories and involvement and treatment at Baylor, Nancy decided that she had to raise funds and awareness.
Despite the perception of breast cancer as a “woman’s disease,” there was a strong and influential contingent of men at the tables, including Toyota’s Jim Lentz with his wife Mary Lentz, Hill family patriarch Al Hill Jr. with daughter Elisa Summers and Heather Washburne, Honorary Co-Chair Kenny Troutt with wife/Honorary Co-Chair Lisa Troutt and NM VP Kevin Hurst, who heard former “Good Morning America’s” Joan Lunden describe the past year of battling breast cancer and not just any old breast cancer. It was the Isis of breast cancers — triple-negative breast cancer (aka TNBC). Not only is it an extremely aggressive cancer, but it is not easily detectable due to breast density and not responsive to the traditional treatments.
Time and time again following the luncheon, even the most savvy women ‘fessed up they had no idea that breast density posed a problem for diagnosing this killer cancer.
Evidently, Joan’s talk was more than heard. It made a profound impact on both the women and the men. That night at a gathering of influencers, Kevin was heard describing the evils of the disease to a woman who hadn’t attended the lunch.
Another highlight of the luncheon was the announcement of $1.25M by the Andy Horner family and the men and women of Premier Designs to support Hope Lodge on Baylor’s campus. As Baylor Health Care System Foundation President Robin Robinson revealed that gift that arrived the day before, he pointed to a table of women just to the left of the stage. Were they the benefactors? No, they were Premier Designs employees who had conquered breast cancer, and they admitted they were proud and surprised about the announcement.
Robin also remembered a dear friend of the Baylor Foundation — AT&T’s Cathy Coughlin, who spearheaded the campaign against texting while driving. She also served as the most successful Celebrating Women corporate underwriting chair in 2011. The 57-year-old marketing executive died of pancreatic cancer this past April. In her honor, AT&T made a donation to Celebrating Women.
BTW, Joan was a knockout. The daughter of a cancer surgeon who died in an airplane crash when Joan was just a youngster, she had picked up the banner and is carrying on inspired by her father and her own journey.
Need proof? Get her book.
Funny aside: When her co-author had her mammogram, she asked the clinician about her breast density. The exasperated staffer said, “Ever since Joan Lunden wrote about breast density, every woman wants to know her breast density.”
BTW, it was just two years ago that Bruce Selkirk established the Amy T. Selkirk Fund at Baylor in the name of his late wife Amy Selkirk, who was diagnosed with TNBC. The fund was to support a breast cancer vaccine trail led by Dr. Joyce O’Shaughnessy, the Celebrating Women Endowed Chair in Breast Cancer Research at Baylor, and Dr. Karolina Palucka, a researcher at Baylor Institute for Immunology Research.” It’s already paying off for Baylor clinical trial patients like Mary Morton and Deanna Bernhagen, who are participating in the current trial. Amy may have been a victim of TNBC, but thanks to her husband the crusade is being carried on inspired by her.