By Elizabeth Crawford
Breast cancer is the second most common cancer among American women, and approximately one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. Pink Alliance, a non-profit organization in the Brazos Valley, has been helping local women and families affected by breast cancer for more than seven years.
Established during a coffee date between two breast cancer survivors in 2007, Pink Alliance has helped numerous women and families in the Brazos Valley affected by breast cancer. The organization was created to provide reliable, informative resources for women who are diagnosed and to inspire hope through individual and group support. Providing emotional and financial support, establishing partnerships with organizations and hospitals, and hosting fundraisers are just some of the things Pink Alliance does best.
Patricia Gerling, president of Pink Alliance, is a breast cancer survivor. She became involved with the organization in 2011 by nature of association; she knew all the women on the board and wanted to help, she says. Since Gerling first got involved, Pink Alliance has grown a considerable amount. “We have over 85 years of breast cancer survivorship,” Gerling says of the board members. All eight women are either retired or working professionals and serve the Pink Alliance as volunteers. Pink Alliance has no office and provides no financial benefits to board members, says Gerling.
The organization works to build relationships within the medical community in the Brazos Valley to provide support, says Gerling. Working with the local American Cancer Society, the Pink Alliance supplies physicians, surgeons and oncologists with Personal Health Managers, a portfolio of breast cancer-related information that is available to all newly diagnosed patients. The organization also hopes to soon have billboards advocating mammograms, Gerling says.
Pink Alliance hosts a bi-monthly support group to help breast cancer patients and families cope with the emotional pain associated with the disease. Breast cancer survivors who attend the meetings as newly diagnosed patients come back every month to provide support for others, Gerling says. Family members of cancer patients who attend receive just as much support as the patient does. “It’s a wonderful place to be,” she says.
In addition to offering information and emotional support to patients, Pink Alliance also provides financial help. The organization joins forces with local groups to host fundraisers to raise money for local breast cancer patients.
“We all work, live, and give in the Brazos Valley and we want to keep the funds local and support the community we live in,” Gerling says. In 2013, Pink Alliance provided almost $54,000 in financial support to 124 patients in the Brazos Valley.
The group’s largest fundraiser is the Pink Alliance Golf Classic at Pebble Creek, which will be held on October 24. Pink Alliance has teamed up with the Brazos Valley Bridal Association and is the beneficiary of the spring and fall bridal shows. Pink Alliance also works with Gary Blair, head coach of the Texas A&M University women’s basketball team, and benefits from the annual Pink Out game.
The organization is currently working with the Rudder High School football program for a fundraising event in October. “We are all committed and believe in this community,” Gerling says.
Gerling shares information on how to spread breast cancer awareness in your own circle of friends and loved ones: “Women need to know their body and take care of themselves,” Gerling says. Monthly breast self-exams are very important, as well as advocating good breast health to others. “It’s something that we all owe ourselves and those we love,” she adds.
For Gerling, the hardest part of her job is listening to the fears and concerns of a newly diagnosed patient. However, helping them by sharing her experiences is very rewarding. “There are lots of survivors out there,” Gerling says. “We all serve as hope and inspiration for them.”
For more information on Pink Alliance and how to get involved, visit pinkalliance.org.
12th Annual Surviving & Thriving Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon
Pink Alliance will host the 12th annual Surviving and Thriving Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon sponsored by the Texas A&M Health Science Center. The luncheon will take place on September 24 at 11:30 a.m. at the Hilton in College Station. Hollye Jacobs, breast cancer survivor and New York Times best-selling author of The Silver Lining, will be the featured guest speaker. Jacobs is a registered nurse and social worker. She will share her experiences when her role changed from medical clinician to breast cancer patient at just 39 years of age.
For more information, visit survivingandthriving.org.