LANCASTER, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition has unveiled its exhibit, “67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania.”
The collection of photos and stories of women living in every corner of the state is displayed on tall banners, designed to be a traveling exhibit. A kickoff reception on Thursday evening began the current showing inside the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences in Lancaster through Oct. 20.
“Unfortunately, 37 women a day are diagnosed with breast cancer in Pennsylvania,” said Dr. Randall Oyer, medical director of the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute at Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine. “A support system for these women is crucial, and this exhibit shows there is wide-reaching support. They are not fighting this fight alone.”
Alice Sanders with Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition is a 24-year survivor and among several women from Lancaster County featured in the exhibit. The photo she chose to display features her surrounded by her husband and son.
“Breast cancer reaches all areas, all ethnicities,” said Sanders. “We want women to see someone like them. They see that an African-American woman has been touched by this disease, no different than any other woman.”
Sanders says her ultimate goal with the coalition is to support awareness and research that will develop a cure for the disease that one in every eight American women will be diagnosed with during their lifetime. The exhibit features women ranging in age from their early 20s to those battling breast cancer in their 70s and 80s.
Below each photo, the woman or group of women featured shares a few sentences about their personal experiences battling the disease. Some encourage others to participate in early detection practices such as self-exams, share a Bible verse that inspired them during their treatment, or describe how they’ve used their bout with cancer to create support groups or horseback riding therapy programs.
Nicole Shaffer of Lancaster County was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35 and is now an eight-year survivor. The nurse practitioner says she uses her own experience to support others, especially young women, now battling the disease.
“It wasn’t a club that any of us asked to belong to,” said Shaffer, who has participated in the exhibit in previous years. “One year, I used a quote. When I was diagnosed, my kids were six, four and two. When I finished my treatments, my oldest said ‘Today, Mommy’s done with cancer.'”
You can hear more stories from Pennsylvania breast cancer survivors by visiting the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition’s website.