Back on Wednesday, October 28, it was one of those cold fall days with the high only 45 degrees and wet stuff falling all over. If ever there was a time when an event benefited from being virtual, it was the day’s Baylor Scott And White Dallas Foundation‘s 2020 Celebrating Women benefiting Baylor Scott And White Health’s battle against breast cancer. Over the past 20 years, the fundraiser had provided more than $35 million “to help care for the nearly 18,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer each year.”
Leading up to the noontime online gathering had been weekly video briefs on the programs and progress funded by Baylor Scott And White Dallas Foundation’s annual fundraiser. 2020 Celebrating Women Chair Peggy Meyer and Underwriting Chair Jill Tananbaum had been concerned that many women were postponing mammograms due to COVID-19. But thanks to the videos, there had been a 15% increase in imaging during October.
Earlier in the year, when Peggy and Jill announced the plans to go virtual, they emphasized that the goal was primarily to build awareness for a wider audience by making the event free and secondarily to raise funds through underwriting efforts. To boost the latter, philanthropist Paula Walker offered a $50,000 match.
Kicking off the day’s program, a video featuring 27-year-old Diana Johnson was shown. Diana wasn’t a doctor, a healthcare worker or even a family member of a breast cancer victim. No, she was a newlywed, who had married Dr. Brett Johnson in May 2019. But unlike most new brides, her first year of marriage was filled with challenges — three weeks later, she had suffered the loss of her brother and then, in December, she was diagnosed with breast cancer after discovering a large mass that turned out to be the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Of course, the first question she asked was, “Am I going to die?” Then she wondered how she was going to tell her mother after having lost her son “that she may lose me, too.” But then, thanks to her own spunky spirit and the team of specialists (Dr. Joyce O’Shaughnessy and Dr. Michael Grant) working with her, Diana took on a new attitude: “I’m not going to let cancer do this to me or my mom. I refuse to let cancer take things away from me.”
For instance, one week she had her chemo on a Friday and the following Saturday she came in second place for her age group in a 10K run.
And certainly the pandemic was not going to hold her or her team back from treatments. In fact even with the COVID-19 protocols in place, Diana was amazed by the Baylor staff’s interaction: “Everyone at Baylor Scott and White was always so kind. They were always so nice. They understood how the patients were feeling, and they made sure that that patient felt understood, that they felt someone had their back.”
Then she had her surgery to remove everything and “found that the lymph nodes were clear.”
Diana revealed that she has a month and a half of radiation and five years of estrogen blockers ahead.
Her story was enough to have completed the day’s goal of sharing the fact that, even during the pandemic, the battle against breast cancer is being won thanks to the resources and people on the front lines.
But there was still more. Both Peggy and Jill spoke about how breast cancer had made a personal impact on their lives — Peggy through family members, and Jill being a 15-year breast cancer survivor/thriver herself.
After recognizing key sponsors of the day’s very professional presentation that included presenting sponsor Tom Thumb and Albertsons Companies Foundation, The Mary Kay Foundation, The Aileen and Jack Pratt Foundation and E.T. Bradley and EBAA Iron, it was time for Dr. Lucy Wallace and Dr. Mehmet Oz to have their virtual chat.
BTW, Lucy herself has known the impact of breast cancer on a family. Because both her maternal grandmother and mother had breast cancer, she is participating in Baylor’s high-risk program. Her hope is that one day a single drop of blood will reveal breast cancer long before the need for a mammogram.
Highlights of the conversation with Dr. Oz included his following comments:
- Women — “I had 30 cousins that were all women. I believe that women are the glue to our society.”
- “Wellness” —The idea came from his wife and her family. Despite her father (Dr. Gerald Lemole) being a cardiac surgeon who trained with Dr. Denton Cooley and Dr. Michael DeBakey and was on the first U.S. heart-transplant team in 1968, he authored a brilliant book for patients recovering from cancer — “After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide To Getting and Staying Well For Patients After Cancer”.
- Good foods to eat — Nuts (tree variety), tomato sauce, tomatoes with olive oil, lycopene. Have them twice a week, purple potatoes, mocha green tea, oysters.
- Practices — Find a way of calming yourself in navigating between chaos and order. He meditates daily. Yoga is a great way.
- What was he like as a kid — He was bouncing all over the place. “Luckily, sports helped channel that.” He played football in college. It allowed him to understand what makes this country and when you fail you get back up. His dad was a doctor; his mother was raised in wealth. “I got to see both sides of the world in a complimentary way.”
- Biggest joy of being a grandparent — “You can always give the kids back. But you can actually see what you’ve passed on to your children and grandchildren.”
- Oprah — “She is the fairest women I’ve met in my life. Incredible presence.”
- Powerful women — “They can process multiple streams of information.” His leadership on the show is all-female.
- Silver lining of COVID-19 — “By slowing the planet down, it lets me focus on the important things.”
- Who should play you in your life’s movie? — George Clooney
- What is his vision for the future — His was like Lucy’s: “Using blood to provide markers of pre-breast cancer.” Survival rates are so much higher than when he started. Research that is taking place because of COVID will also help breast cancer and other cancer research.