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April 10, 2018 > Foundation supports breast cancer patients with love

Foundation supports breast cancer patients with love

By Roelle Balan

HERS (Hope, Empowerment, Renewal, and Support) Breast Cancer Foundation is hosting their 9th annual ?People with Purpose? gala in Pleasanton to raise awareness about breast cancer and the services they provide to survivors. HERS is also celebrating their 20th anniversary as an organization.

HERS Breast Cancer Foundation was started in 1998 by Tricia McMahon, Cheryl A. Maloney, and Nancy J. Vital. Their mission is to provide post care services and products to survivors of breast cancer who are low-income, uninsured, or underinsured.

Tina Fernandez Steckler, Executive Director of HERS Breast Cancer Foundation, said the organization began with McMahon recognizing the need to fit women for bras. She held her fittings at a consignment store in Fremont. In 2004 McMahon connected with Washington Hospital Healthcare System CEO Nancy Farber about finding a space for the HERS Foundation. There was an empty retail store next to Washington Hospital and they ended up donating the space to HERS. ?It?s a huge thing for the hospital to have done for us which is wonderful,? said Annette Lewellyn, Program Director for HERS.

Steckler explains how the location of their office was a seamless spot. Just down the hall from their center is the women?s center where patients are seen by breast care specialists and nurse navigators. Right next door is a lymphedema clinic. ?The thought was to have this organization here in the building where it was just a few steps instead of having the patient get into a car and then take a trip to access products,? Steckler said.

Breast cancer is already a tough life change for everyone involved. HERS Breast Cancer Foundation has three charitable programs that offer emotional and physical help and support to breast cancer survivors from the moment they are diagnosed. One is called We Support YOU Survive, offering breast cancer survivors with bras and breast prostheses. The program has had 500 clients since it started in 2009 and supported 62 percent of its clients who had a mastectomy.

The Lymphedema Project provides survivors with compression garments for any form of lymphedema. Lymphedema is a breast cancer side effect that can happen after surgery. According to HERS, lymphedema can be the feeling of numbness and discomfort in the arm, hand, or chest. The condition can sometimes lead to an infection. Survivors can develop mild to severe lymphedema and 30 percent of breast cancer survivors can get the symptom. The program started in 2010 and has served over 900 clients.

The Hair with Care program is for survivors that began or just finished chemotherapy and may have lost some hair. Certified cosmetologists provide emotional support while they help style and adjust the wigs. This program started in 2011 and has helped 250 clients. This service and product is only available at the Fremont office.

A patient can receive any of these products or services by obtaining a prescription provided on the HERS Breast Cancer Foundation website. Patients can get assistance in getting a doctor?s prescription by contacting the foundation. ?We hold their hands throughout the whole process too. It?s a hand-holding experience and guidance with compassion and caring and a lot of love behind it for each individual,? Lewellyn said. Once the prescription is received, a patient makes an appointment with a certified breast cancer specialist and a licensed cosmetologist for a fitting. Lewellyn said products are either given to them that day or through a special order.

Most of these services are not fully covered by a patient?s insurance. That?s where HERS step in. The organization also does the billing, where products not covered by a patient?s insurance are covered by the foundation. ?It?s a service that we offer that?s really significant,? Steckler said.

?Women who go through breast cancer because they are so overwhelmed with surgery, all the pre-op appointments, they?re gonna lose their hair, they?re gonna start chemotherapy, they have to go through radiation, there?s just so much in their heads that they can?t comprehend everything. So, we do all the billing for them. They don?t have to worry about that, which is really nice,? Lewellyn said.

People with Purpose, a Pink Tie Gala is a recognition of local community leaders that have made significant contributions to bring awareness to breast cancer and support survivors. The gala will have a three-course dinner, cocktails, award ceremony, dancing, and a silent and a live auction. Bay Area TV news station anchor Heather Holmes, KTVU FOX 2, will be the master of ceremonies. Honorees who have made significant contributions to the foundation will be awarded that night. 2018 honorees are Joseph Alalay, Team District 10, Fundraiser (Hope Award); Freska, KOIT Radio Host (Empowerment Award); Castlewood Women?s Golf Club (Renewal Award); and Elizabeth Barron, Volunteer and Former HERS Board Member (The Harriet Despeaux Award, formerly Support Award).

The event raises money for the services offered through the foundation, including the We Support YOU Survive bra and prostheses program. Funds will be raised through ticket sales, sponsorships, and silent and live auction proceeds.

Tickets can be bought at the HERS Foundation offices, by calling (510) 790-1911, or by emailing Last day to purchase tickets is April 20.

People with Purpose
Saturday, Apr 21
6 p.m. ? 10 p.m.
Castlewood Country Club
707 Country Club Cir, Pleasanton
(510) 790-1911
Tickets: $125 per person

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