In a sea of pink and white balloons, pink tablecloths and white napkins and ladies dressed in various shades of pink, the Season of Hope Gathering was a tastefully and delightfully successful breast cancer awareness event.
It is an annual Longaberger basket extravaganza with a very important goal to educate women about breast cancer and to raise money to help find a cure for the dreaded disease and help a local breast cancer patient.
Since 1995, the Longaberger Company and its more than 55,000 independent home consultants nationwide, have teamed with the American Cancer Society to raise funds for research and education in the fight against breast cancer and its complications. The program is called Horizon of Hope.
Longaberger designs a special Horizon of Hope basket each year and $2 from the sale of each one of these baskets is donated to the American Cancer Society. To date, $17 million has been donated. It is estimated that 20 million women have received potentially life-saving information with every basket.
Danette Troxell of Lehighton became a Longaberger consultant 10 years ago. Her branch manager asked her if she would like to participate in her branch's breast cancer fundraiser. She did and has been committed to the cause ever since. But it became personal when her mother-in-law, Fern Troxell, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She became a survivor but later developed cancer again, only to then lose the battle.
Troxell has since become branch leader of the Woven Friendships Branch with nine home consultants. She has been chairwoman of the event for the last six years. She is quick to credit that she couldn't do it without the help of all her consultants, each bringing their own special talents to the mix.
This year's luncheon was held at the Lehigh Township Volunteer Fire Company with 141 women and a few gentlemen participating. It was a combined effort between the Longaberger Woven Friendships Branch of Home Consultants and two Dream Achievers Branch of Home Consultants with Jeanine Villano-George as their branch leader. Jeanine lent her comedic talents as the Chinese auction announcer of the 103 Longaberger items.
Dr. Joseph P. Russo, a radiologist and section chief of Women's Imaging at St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network and Sandy Cray, breast cancer survivor and vice president of the Lehigh Valley Region of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition, were the afternoon's guest speakers.
"One in eight women will have breast cancer. But we're seeing more and more treatable breast cancers and it can be curable," Dr. Russo said.
He credits St. Luke's all digital mammograms for being better for early detection, a number one reason for successful treatment. He admits that mammograms can cause undue anxiety but are so important for women age 40 and over to have regularly.
"If breast cancer is in the family, the age of starting to have a mammogram is based on the age of the person who had it. If your mother had it at age 45, you should have a mammogram at age 35."
When Sandy Cray was 36 years old, she remembers it was age 50 that was recommended for your first mammogram. Doing a self breast exam, she felt a lump. It turned out to be a cyst but it called attention to other areas of interest. A biopsy was done and several cancerous spots were removed. The original cyst couldn't be found.
"I feel the cyst developed to alert me to the cancer and once it had been found, its job was done and went away," she said.
"I had to fight for reconstructive surgery 15 years ago. Now it's mandatory."
She believes that a cancer diagnosis is very traumatic for the person but it affects everyone else in the family as well.
"I was given the gift of breast cancer so I could go out and talk about it, recommend getting mammograms, doing self exams, to become aware of what's normal for you. I have no family history of breast cancer and yet I had it. Be aware," was her message.
She considers being a breast cancer survivor as her greatest achievement.
The audience was asked if there were any breast cancer survivors in the group to stand, and about 10 women rose.
Troxell announced that the total proceeds from the afternoon would go directly to Rebecca (Becky) Hrusovsky of East Penn Township.
Hrusovsky was diagnosed on New Year's Eve day, 2009.
In January she had a lumpectomy and mastectomy.
On March 17, St. Patrick's Day, she began chemotherapy and finished in August. She will be on a medication regimen until May of 2011.
"It's been rough. It's so hard on you but it's just as hard on my family," she said.
Hrusovsky, a direct sales person for Mia Bella Candles, and her husband, Tom, sold their home and moved in with her mother, and said it was a blessing because she was a huge help to her, Tom and their three children: Shain, 9, Cole, 6 and Drew, 4.
"I try to keep positive. I'm hoping someday I can turn it around and help other people going through it," she said.
As for being the recipient of the event's fundraising, "I was shocked when Danette told me. It's hard to find words. It's overwhelming. I'm amazed and so very thankful."
The event raised a little over $4,000, thanks to guests like Michele Buzzetta and Carol Kist, both of Lehighton.
"This is my sixth year coming. This year I brought my mom, sister, niece and my girlfriend. We had a great time. I also come to support the fight against breast cancer. My husband has cancer and just started treatments so I know a little about how it affects you," said Buzzetta.
Kist has been coming to the event about seven years.
"It's a beautiful event and it's for a great cause. Everyone knows someone who has cancer," said Kist.
She brought along her sister, Maria Hetern of Lebanon, N.J.
"This is my first year but it won't be my last. It's a really good event and I like that the money is going to someone who lives in the area," said Hetern.
"The event is near and dear to my heart because of the wonderful feeling of helping someone in need," she said.