June 1, 2017, marks the 20th anniversary of Roswell Park’s Breast Resource Center (now the Breast & GYN Resource Center), which offers individual support; information; a lending library; free wigs, hats and scarves for patients with treatment-related hair loss; skin care classes for chemotherapy patients; and other services.
Doreen Mortimer and Bunkie Hawk were diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time in 1992. Longtime friends, they were in the same hospital room, recovering from surgery, when the idea that they were “bosom buddies” came about.
Together they went on to organize The Bosom Buddies of East Aurora, a support group for other breast cancer survivors. With the encouragement and assistance of Stephen B. Edge, MD, FACS, FASCO, former chief of the Roswell Park Breast Service and now Vice President of Healthcare Outcomes and Policy, the group raised funds to help Dr. Edge establish the Western New York Breast Resource Center at Roswell Park, which opened in 1997.
The enormous success of their signature fundraising event, the annual Bosom Buddies Walk, took Dr. Edge by surprise. “We thought it'd be a flash in the pan,” he says. “We thought they'd raise a couple of thousand; they raised $10,000 the first year, and it quickly grew way beyond that to allow us to found the Resource Center. What a wonderful event! I still remember pushing my three-year-old daughter around in a stroller at the first Bosom Buddies walk.”
Doreen Mortimer died the year after the Resource Center opened. “My Bosom Buddy Doreen lost her cancer battle,” says Hawk. “She’s the one who really did the heavy lifting. The Resource Center project was her baby. I’m thrilled to know that this wonderful resource center is still here today to provide for women in need.”
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Joanne Janicki, who served as the center coordinator until her retirement last year, says the services it offers today “evolved from 20 years of listening to the patients and families we care for. Acknowledging the patient as a person — whether a single mom, a member of the ‘sandwich generation’ caring for several family members, a working professional or new immigrant to the Western New York community — is the hallmark of the Resource Center.”
Janicki also organized fundraising events to help fund the center’s efforts. “She put her heart and soul into it!” says Edge. “Joanne’s the one who really put it all together. She was the Resource Center. And that reflects what support really means — the one-on-one help provided to individuals.” The range of services it provides today reflects the fact that “we have to continuously recognize our patients’ needs, far beyond their medical needs,” he adds.
For the past year and half, Angela Braun has run the center, which expanded recently to serve women with GYN cancers. “I am truly fortunate that I am able to help patients through their cancer journey,” she says. “I’m so very proud of and thankful for the team members who've worked in the center and the fact that for the past 20 years, with the support of the breast cancer community, we have been able to help literally thousands of women who are coping with breast cancer — and now those with gynecologic cancers as well — and give them a safe place.”
Located on the first floor of the Scott Bieler Clinical Sciences Center (Room P-102), the Breast and GYN Resource Center is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Phone: 716-845-4432.
Information in this article is provided by Roswell Park’s Office of the Patient/Family Experience. Questions or comments? Please call 716-845-8114.