The non-profit North Fork Breast Health Coalition will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the Fourth Annual Pink Pearl Gala on Friday, April 27, at East Wind in Wading River, from 6 PM to 10 PM.
The organization was founded by Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and her now late husband, Antonio, in 1998. The NFBHC’s goal is to raise awareness of its services, thus allowing breast cancer patients and survivors alike to live a full and meaningful life. The coalition’s offerings continue to grow, said president Susan Ruffini.
“We have added two new services, guided meditation and very gentle yoga, both of which have been successfully received and attended,” said Ruffini. “These added services have supported our breast cancer patients and survivors in continuing their path to wellness of mind and body in a positive way.”
NFBHC also offers a boutique, supplying wigs, scarves, prosthesis and mastectomy bras — typically expensive items to breast cancer patients — all free of charge. “We are ever so grateful to our supporters whom have enabled us to continue and expand the help the NFBHC can provide to anyone on the North Fork diagnosed with Breast Cancer,” Ruffini said.
Pink Pearl’s event chair, Melanie McEvoy, is all too familiar with the life changing disease. In 2010, at age 40, McEvoy underwent her first mammogram, per her doctor’s recommendation. With no history of cancer in her family, it was more of a rite of passage above anything else.
Unfortunately, the test led to three positive biopsies and the cancer floor of Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Union Square. In a week’s time she was diagnosed with three tumors, two centimeters each, in her left breast. It was confirmed — Stage 1 “estrogen positive breast cancer with no lymph node involvement.” She was scheduled for a mastectomy with reconstruction.
“Since I had a complete removal of the breast tissue, I did not need radiation and my numbers for recurrence were too low to warrant chemo,” said McEvoy. For five years, she remained on the estrogen blocking drug, Tamoxifen, through 2015. Then, in 2017, she noticed a change in her left breast. The results of a positron emission tomography scan in January 2018 showed that her cancer had returned, in her lymph nodes.
McEvoy noted that her doctors were “bewildered” at the cancer’s comeback, and its location. While the cancer is considered Stage 2, it is also considered aggressive, as it returned.
Despite her frightening situation, McEvoy is optimistic. Upon learning of her cancer’s reappearance, she dyed her hair hot pink and smiles every time she looks in the mirror. She is a warrior, not a victim, she said. Currently, McEvoy is undergoing daily radiation treatments, followed by eight weeks of chemotherapy as well as monthly ovary blocking shots in her stomach.
“The moral of my story is that sometimes our hormones can do bad things like cause cancer, so there needs to be a lot more research on female hormones. You have to be your own best advocate. A positive attitude vs. ‘Why me?’ is the best way to live. I have a tremendous amount of support from the coalition, friends, family, my clients, and the community in general. I’m very lucky,” she noted.
In light of such ‘luck,’ she plans to get a four-leaf clover vine tattoo to cover up her scar, once she has healed.
The 20th Anniversary Pink Pearl Gala will be emceed by Shari Einhorn of News 12 Long Island. There will be a cocktail reception and a seated dinner, followed by dancing.
East Wind is located at 5720 Route 25A in Wading River. Seating is $125 per person and $95 for breast-cancer survivors. Visit www.northforkbreasthealth.org to learn more, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.