Two area mothers who are breast cancer survivors are among women who are working to encourage and educate other women all over this area to be aware of this disease and to support the Susan G. Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure organization.
Ann Lewis of Collegeville and Sloane Six of Harleysville will be among the thousands who will gather to participate and lend their support in the annual Mother’s Day Race for the Cure held on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Lewis, who has a family history of breast cancer and was diagnosed with the disease at the early age of 33, has been active in the annual Race for the Cure event for a number of years since her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. And she is avid about the need to find a cure for the sake of her young daughters.
“I want to share my story in the hopes of educating people about knowing the risks and taking proactive measures,” Lewis explained. “I want to help inspire other young women to take care of their health.”
Lewis said her mother, two grandmothers and two great-grandmothers all suffered from breast cancer, and knowing her family history she went for genetic testing and was found to be positive for a breast cancer gene. She said she joined a high-risk program at the Penn Medicine Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and through regular mammograms and MRI’s an aggressive form of cancer was detected early. “It was those steps that really saved my life,” Lewis said.
She said she has had surgery, chemotherapy, reconstruction and continues on medication. She said her mother first contracted breast cancer in her 50s and last year was diagnosed with a second different type and underwent similar treatment. “No matter how old you are going through something like this is difficult,” Lewis said.
Lewis said she and her husband, John, made the decision to have children through a surrogate and now have two healthy 20-month-old daughters, Hadley and Ellie, running around. “I want to encourage people to support the organization to try to find a cure,” she said. “I want to see them find a cure so my two girls do not have to deal with this when they are older.”
Also dedicated to supporting the causes of the Susan G. Komen organization is Sloane Six, who at age 46 and a mother with a young son, survived an advanced stage of the disease.
Six explained she has no family history of the disease but was suffering pain and requested an ultrasound from her physician. “It is good to listen to your body and learn the ten indicators of breast cancer,” Six said
After being diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer, Six said she knew she was fighting for her life and needed to find the best treatment. “A major focus was my five-year-old son, Skylar, seeing I needed to be here to guide him through life,” she said. She stated she had great doctors at Penn Medicine, where she was treated with a mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and follow up medication. Six said she also had a community of support through Komen and the love and support from family she found throughout the whole process.
“After treatment I became involved in the Komen organization and found a community of people who are really interested in doing what they can through research and education,” Six explained.
Today she is dedicated to working with the organization to educate women about the indicators of breast cancer and the need for early detection, as well as supporting research to find a cure.
Six said her son, now age 15, has been a supporter throughout the years, having also seen a first grade teacher pass away from the disease and another teacher and a close friend suffer from it. She said at age five he raised over $20,000 by himself for the cause and he still remains active, volunteering annually at the Philadelphia Mother’s Day Race for the Cure and helping raise funds for the Komen organization and Penn Medicine research.
Six said every year there are more than 100,000 survivors and supporters that show up on the Art Museum steps for the Philadelphia race. “It is Mother’s Day and it is a very moving day,” she explained. “It is very humbling to see people in different stages on their journeys with breast cancer. It is a community of people supporting the cause and making a difference.”
Six is now serving her second three-year term on the organization’s board of directors and has chaired the grants committee, which provides funds to hospitals for mammograms and diagnosis for those who might not have insurance and to community groups that focus on education and awareness. She said a portion of the money also goes to grants for research, and although people may think it is only on a national level, a lot comes back to the Philadelphia area, such as to the University of Pennsylvania and Wistar Institute.
The organization reaches out to 13 counties in Pennsylvania as well as Delaware. “Komen does an amazing job in the extent they go to in getting the word out, despite language barriers, to make sure people get mammograms and treatment,” Six said.
She said there is also a Pink Tie Bowl each year on the second Saturday in October, where there are auctions and a dinner honoring area doctors, hospitals and researchers who have contributed to the mission of Komen.
She added that no one globally has raised as much money for breast cancer research as the Susan G. Komen organization has.