As Phyllis McFarland thought about her friends, she noticed an unusual trend. Several of her friends called themselves breast cancer survivors.
In order to recognize their successful fight, McFarland decided to host a special Pink Ribbon Luncheon for them. She themed the luncheon after the Susan G. Komen walk, complete with pink construction paper steps leading up to the door.
McFarland said the steps “stood for the fact that they had run the race and crossed the finish line.”
At the doorstep, there was a pink banner, tennis shoes and water bottles. McFarland even got a total stranger to donate her services to the luncheon.
While shopping one day, she noticed a pink convertible in the parking lot. She went into a store and asked for the owner.
When she explained her luncheon idea to Candace Looper, Looper was immediately on board, having had a family member who had lost her battle with breast cancer. She brought her car to the luncheon and allowed the women to take photographs with it.
Inside was more of the same festive decór, with pink sequinned tennis shoes hanging on the chandelier and silver trophies.
“The trophies stood for winner,” McFarland said. “They beat cancer.”
The grand finale was a presentation of custom aprons.
“There’s so much emphasis on racing for the cure and the cause, but I don’t see much spotlight on those who have fought and won,” McFarland said.
McFarland said the best part of the luncheon was seeing the women share their stories and their support for each other.
“They bonded,” she said.
Lora McDaniel was one of the women who attended McFarland’s luncheon. McDaniel, a teacher at Blanchard High School at the time, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2005. After going through radiation and chemotherapy, McDaniel thought things looked bleak until a new medication was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“It was like another chance at life,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel said, so far, the treatments seem to be working because she is still cancer free. While receiving treatment, however, she found herself retiring from her teaching position.
“I just didn’t have the energy I felt I needed to do a good job,” she said.
McDaniel said the luncheon is the first type of breast cancer support system she has been involved with. But, as a friend of McFarland, she took the extravagance of the luncheon lightly.
“I’ve known her so long, it’s not like it was a surprise,” McDaniel said, saying she knew it would be wonderful.
Kat Roberts, quality assurance director for Norman Physician Hospital Organization, was diagnosed in March with breast cancer.
“What makes my getting breast cancer so interesting to me is that I worked as an oncology/hospice nurse for years,” Roberts said. “I know all of this stuff about it and then I was the patient.”
Roberts had a double masectomy surgery in April and has had four other surgeries since. She decided to go with surgery because breast cancer runs in her family. Because she chose the masectomy, though, her doctors didn’t see a need for her to receive chemotheraphy and radiation treatments.
Because of her family history with breast cancer, Roberts had been dedicated to regular self-exams and early mammograms.
But Roberts said she didn’t catch the lump herself. It was found on a routine screen.
If she hadn’t been running a few months late in the screening, the test may not have found the lumps — they had developed and grown that quickly.
Roberts, in her line of work, had already been involved with Relay for Life and other cancer benefits. In fact, before she was diagnosed, her plan was to run the Susan G. Komen 5K race this year.
Her cancer treatments set her training back a little and she walked the race, instead.
“Next year I will run it,” Roberts said.
Since being on the other side of health care, Roberts said she has a new outlook on patient treatment.
“I always knew that cancer was a whole family disease, but seeing it affect my kids has given me a whole new perspective on being the kid of a cancer patient,” Roberts said.
Roberts said social media also played a role in disseminating information on breast cancer treatments and helped her make decisions on her own health care.
A favor that she would like to return in the future, one that meant much to her, is to call and lend support to those diagnosed. When she was diagnosed, she heard from two ladies who shared their stories and decisions with her.
“That was incredible, and that’s what I will turn around and do for others,” she said.