Mayor Walks for Breast Cancer
In early 1995 Alexandria’s City Manager, Vola Lawson, was diagnosed with breast cancer after a routine mammogram. The type of breast cancer she had would never have formed a lump and could only be detected by a mammogram. Later that .year Vola Lawson, with the support of then-Mayor Patricia Ticer – a breast cancer survivor herself – and Vice-Mayor Kerry Donley and the city council, convened a group of individuals representing different city agencies and organizations with ties .to breast cancer awareness and prevention. The goal of this committee, The Breast Cancer Awareness Committee, was to determine the most effective use of the city’s resources in the battle against breast cancer. The committee focused on providing early detection and education to the Alexandria community and raising funds for women who are uninsured or underinsured and could not afford mammograms.
"Walk to Fight Breast Cancer"
In July 1995, with support from the mayor and city council, the city manager’s Breast Cancer Awareness Committee decided to sponsor a "Walk to Fight Breast Cancer" .to raise funds to provide breast cancer awareness education and to support mammograms and other diagnostic examinations for women who do not have the resources to pay for these life saving procedures. Only three months later, in October 1995, Alexandria’s first annual "Walk to Fight Breast Cancer" became a reality.
Coordinated by the city’s Office on Women and Alexandria Hospital, the 1995 Walk raised $23,000 with 200 individuals participating. This effort has grown each year with over 800 participants and more than $57,000 raised in 1998. This year marked another highpoint for the "Walk to Fight Breast Cancer" – 1,100 participants, combined with corporate sponsorship, raised over $83,000.
Since taking office, Mayor Donley has been a staunch advocate of the "Walk to Fight Breast Cancer" and the city’s efforts to raise community awareness about the importance of early detection to the lives of women. Each year, in support of the Walk and the battle against this deadly disease, the mayor and city council proclaim October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the City of Alexandria. Additionally, Mayor Donley is an active participant in the annual Walk, serving as master of ceremonies for the program that immediately precedes each Walk and walking alongside survivors with one or more of his five daughters in tow.
In addition, Mayor Donley has featured .the "Walk to Fight Breast Cancer," and the importance of early detection, on his cable television program. Through this program, the mayor has brought together women personally touched by this disease, as survivors or family members of survivors, to discuss their experiences and to raise awareness about the critical importance of .mammograms and early detection.
In 1996 – the first year funds from the .Walk were available to pay for mammograms – fifty-seven women received screening mammograms, with a total of 60 diagnostic tests being performed. As of June 1999, four years after the inception of the "Walk to Fight Breast Cancer" Fund, 392 diagnostic tests had been completed on 352 patients. These statistics reflect that women are now returning for annual mammograms, a primary goal of the program. In order to be most effective, mammograms must be done on a regular, on-going basis.
Based on the first six months of 1999, the number of women using this fund is expected to rise by as much as 35 percent compared to 1998, demonstrating the effectiveness of this important effort. Diagnosed women are referred to the Alexandria Health Department, which assists them in identifying treatment options.
As the participation in the city’s efforts .to fight breast cancer continues to grow, increasing numbers of women are made aware of the importance of mammograms and that the lack of resources to pay for them is no longer a barrier to a medical procedure that may very well save their lives.
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