Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Friend to Friend...

Good Afternoon FRIENDS — 

As we kick off the Francine’s Friends virtual campaign, I wanted to reach out to you to tell you that the coach has been busier than ever in recent months and has found ways to adapt during the COVID pandemic.  While we had to shut down due to safety in April and May, we were back doing screenings six days a week as of June 1st.  Despite having to cancel this year’s lunch with friends, we can still come together to support this amazing program that has helped thousands of women over the last 15 years receive a lifesaving screening.
On a personal note, I can share that it was seven years ago that my friend Barb A’Hearn invited me to my first Francine’s Friends Luncheon. What was ironic was that exactly a year later on October 21st, 2014, I was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer.  In just a year, what was deemed as dense tissue at last year’s mammogram, had become cancerous. With two siblings having had cancer at age 20 and at age 45, I was hit especially hard by the diagnosis. Together, with friends, I would get through it. Barb was there at my appointments knowing from experience as a two time breast cancer survivor that I would need an advocate and a friend by my side. She agreed to go with me to doctor’s appointments, share her experiences and even stayed with me for an additional surgery which she insisted no one but  Dr. “I-pod” perform.  Through four rounds of chemo and four surgeries to follow, I would find that inner strength to keep fighting and would now enter post treatment life.  I both loved and hated my new very short hair, and would now focus on preventing a reoccurrence and reflecting on the lessons learned during this journey.
What I can share is that friends are what gets us through breast cancer. Since my diagnosis, I have had four close friends be diagnosed at various stages. My friend Ann, who was told she had no risk, at age 45 would end up being diagnosed in stage 2. Over the last three years she would have eight reconstructive surgeries. I was there for each one of them because that is what girlfriends do.  While we struggle to understand why one in eight of us will be diagnosed, all I know is that we all play it forward by sharing information and helping guide the way for friends with so many questions.  What I learned from Barb, I passed on to friends like Ann.  Together, we made life better for each other and together, those of us who find it important to advocate for others, will make a lifesaving impact on women who need mammograms, but face barriers to receiving their annual screening.

How can you help support Francine’s Friends this year as you have in the past? 

Use the Parkview Foundation peer to peer fundraising link:
Use your Facebook page using this link and create your own fundraiser to share with your friends.  https://justgiving.com/campaign/FrancinesFriends2020
Share this link with your circle of influence and show your support:   
Campaign Updates:
Last week, the first of three emails sharing the impact of the coach went out. This week’s email will share the courageous story of Vicki Torres so look for that on Thursday. All emails will not only share the impact, but provide an opportunity to give through a donate button.
Join us!
Marita Dwight Smith, Executive Director of Francine's Friends, will be hosting a Zoom call on October 29th at 6 p.m. so that we can connect with this long-time group of friends and hear how COVID has impacted screenings region wide. 

If you would like to join us, please email me and let me know and I will send you the link.
Looking forward to connecting with each of you. 

 Cheers to FRIENDS!

Denise Andorfer
Director of Leadership Gifts
Parkview Cancer Institute
10622 Parkview Plaza Drive | Fort Wayne, IN | 46845
Office: 11050 Parkview Circle Drive I Fort Wayne, IN I 46845
Office (260) 266-6618 | Cell (260) 450-5214 | Fax (260) 266-7799

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Breast Cancer Awareness Month


It’s Breast Cancer Awareness month and what better way to celebrate than to share the important work of Francine’s Friends mobile mammography coach! Although we are not able to come together this year during the annual Francine’s Friends Lunch with Friends event, it is important that we share the mission of Francine’s Friends and the need to make early detection of breast cancer available to every woman in surrounding areas by providing convenient and private 15-minute screenings to women over the age of 35, whether insured or uninsured. Donations in support of Francine’s Friends provide women in northeast Indiana with:


This October we are honoring and remembering a very special survivor - Cathy Fitzgerald. As a astute business woman, philanthropic community leader, and life-long learner, mentor, volunteer, Cathy dedicated her 40-plus-year career and personal life to making herself better, her community better, and making an impact on everyone she knew.

Cathy was one of the initial all-volunteer board members in 2005 when a group of friends came together to form Francine’s Friends. Like Francine, her indefatigable approach to living was an inspiration and once she committed to supporting a community event, there was never any doubt of its success. Cathy was a board member for Francine’s Friends until 2017, serving on the governance committee and events committee.

As a survivor herself, Cathy shared her perspective as a celebrated survivor and featured model at the annual October Lunch with Friends fundraiser in 2013. Cathy was diagnosed in 2003 with stage 3 breast cancer; and then again in 2017. On January 25, 2020, Cathy’s 60th birthday, Fort Wayne Mayor Thomas C. Henry proclaimed the day as Cathy Fitzgerald Day. Cathy lost her battle with breast cancer on March 19, 2020.


Watch past sessions by clicking the titles below:

Your donation is vital to the continued success of the mobile mammography coach. A gift of $170 will provide a mammogram to a woman in need. Even if you are unable to make a gift of this amount, your donation will allow us to provide the necessary screenings and continue to save lives through early detection of breast cancer.
Your generosity heals!

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Support Through Diagnosis and Survivorship

Early detection and access to state-of-the-art cancer treatments are both key components of preventing and defeating breast cancer. When caught early, it can be much easier to effectively and successfully treat. Vicki Torres is someone who understands and has experienced this firsthand.

For 15 years, Vicki has been regularly receiving her annual mammograms, but not in the way you might think. Vicki has only ever received her mammograms through Francine’s Friends Mobile Mammography Unit, a service supported by donors to the Parkview Foundations. The mobile mammography unit is unique in that it provides life-saving services to women in Fort Wayne and the surrounding areas who might otherwise be unable to receive them. The mobile unit travels to parking lots of local organizations and businesses to promote early detection of breast cancer, making mammography screenings more accessible to all women.

Vicki candidly shared that she tends to be forgetful and a bit of a procrastinator, which is why she appreciates her friend and co-worker, Janice Buuck, taking the time each year to place flyers and sign-up sheets at work. Janice’s selfless actions help remind co-workers to get their yearly mammograms through the mobile mammography unit. “When I see the pink coach pull in the parking lot, I know it’s time for my mammogram,” Vicki said.

After signing up for her annual screening, Vicki went for her mammogram in November 2019, which was her first 3D mammogram. The state-of-the-art 3D mammography equipment had recently been added to the mobile unit, thanks to the generosity of donors to the Parkview Foundations. Shortly after her appointment, Vicki received a phone call saying the radiologist saw “something” they did not like and would need to get a biopsy and come back for a follow-up.

Her biopsy revealed an unexpected result. She was in the early stages of breast cancer. Vicki was informed she had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) in her left breast and surgery was the best option to remove the cancer. Giving it some thought, she decided to proceed and schedule the lumpectomy. With the holidays right around the corner, Vicki moved forward, scheduling appointments with her oncologist, Melanie Clark, MD, Breast Medical Oncologist, Parkview Cancer Institute, and surgeon, Lauren Kopicky, DO, Breast Surgical Oncology, Parkview Cancer Institute. Even with her world turned upside down, Vicki still made it her goal to finalize her Christmas shopping and have the wrapping done before her surgery, demonstrating her constant care and concern for others.

She prayed throughout her diagnosis and as she waited for the results from her surgery. On Christmas Eve, Dr. Clark called to say her breast cancer was now a stage 0. After having reconstructive surgery with Kevin Berning, MD, PPG – Plastic Surgery, Vicki spoke to the radiologist and was advised to have genomic testing, which looks for mutations in the make-up of a person’s genes and can help assess their risk of cancer.

Her results were more than she could have expected. Vicki was informed she would no longer need the 16 treatments of radiation that had initially been planned and thanks to her early detection, and regular mammograms, the chances of her cancer coming back were very small.

Thanking God and fighting through tears, Vicki rejoiced that her post-surgical results were the best Christmas present she could have ever received. “I am so deeply thankful for the staff there at Parkview. The people have been amazing. The doctors have been amazing,” Vicki said with appreciation. “It was such an incredible experience having to go through cancer with people like that alongside you. People that don’t pretend to care, but actually care. I have met so many amazing people along this journey.”

Paying it forward

It was after her cancer diagnosis and surgery that the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic hit. Like so many others, this affected Vicki financially. In May of 2020, she selflessly volunteered to be furloughed to avoid a layoff of her co-workers. While receiving news of an illness and facing the financial unknowns of a steady paycheck, Vicki remained steadfast in her faith that God is walking with her through it all.

During the furlough, she has been assisting her cousin by driving him to his chemotherapy treatments at the Parkview Cancer Institute for the last seven weeks. She knows first-hand how it can affect patients and feels guilty for not having to endure the treatment herself after her own diagnosis. Something not many people can truly understand.

Giving gratitude and thanks

Cancer has reared its ugly head one too many times in Vicki’s life. Aside from her battle, Vicki has also witnessed her brother’s battle with colorectal cancer 13 years ago and watched her father lose his fight to cancer in 2015. Breast cancer was never a part of the family history prior to Vicki, but she considers it a blessing to be able to help and comfort others battling the disease. She was excited to say that her cousin recently rang the bell at Parkview Cancer Institute, signifying his final treatment.

“Had it not been for the yearly reminder and that pink coach coming out here every year, I don’t know that I would be where I am today in my survival story,” Vicki said.

Women like Vicki are pillars of hope, inspiring many, and acting as a reminder for all women to get their yearly mammograms and take control of their overall health. She’s a survivor and credits the Parkview Health team, Francine’s Friends and her friend and fellow survivor, Janice, for playing a large role in her diagnosis and survivorship. In hopes of paying it forward, Janice and Vicki continue to regularly attend survivor walks, supporting one another through their post-cancer journeys and those just beginning, or currently in theirs.

Staggering statistics

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer ranks second among cancer deaths in women. BreastCancer.org also states that more than an estimated 276,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and over 48,500 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the United States in 2020 alone. With cancer numbers on the rise, your generosity is needed now more than ever. To make a difference in the lives of women like Vicki, you can donate in support to Francine’s Friends at Parkview.com/SupportFrancinesFriends or call 260-266-7800.