Ten northeastern Pennsylvania residents recently took the brave step of sharing their personal experiences with breast cancer to inspire others who are facing the disease. Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania has collected their stories and photos for the company's 11th annual "Gallery of Hope."
Created in 2000, the Gallery of Hope is a traveling display designed to educate the public about the importance of early detection and treatment in the fight against breast cancer.
Gallery of Hope will be on display at Blue Mountain Health System's Gnaden Huetten Hospital campus March 17-24, and then at the Palmerton Hospital campus March 24-31.
Michelle Bruzzese of Monroe County has been named a 2011 Gallery of Hope honoree. Sometimes bravery is a model on a runaway. Showing off the latest fashions at Pocono Medical Center's cancer fundraiser is just one of the ways Bruzzese is inspiring others who face the disease.
The 37-year-old Stroudsburg resident discovered a lump in her breast in early 2010, and she immediately called her physician. A biopsy confirmed it was cancer. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments followed.
With the support of her husband, who took over household duties, the mother of two was able to continue teaching Spanish in the Pocono Mountain School District while she recovered.
For Bruzzese, participating in the Gallery of Hope was about spreading the message "There is always hope." Every day, she tells women to "lead a healthy lifestyle, commit to monthly self-exams and call your health provider immediately if you sense anything is wrong."
In addition to Bruzzese, the 2011 Gallery of Hope recognizes the following women:
Ÿ Karen Chapman, Lock Haven, a grandmother and an employee at Woolwich and Wal-Mart.
Ÿ Josefa Cerra Dombrosky, Carbondale, a third-grade teacher in the Lakeland School District and a religious educator.
Ÿ Kathryn Holod, Clarks Summit, a college instructor and a board member for the Employment Opportunity & Training Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania (EOTC) and the American Red Cross of Lackawanna County.
Ÿ Dorothy Hoffman, Jobs Corner, a farm owner and a grandmother of 10.
Ÿ Judith Ragukas, Sweet Valley, a registered nurse and clinical director and a mother of two.
Ÿ Melissa Rickard, Honesdale, a certified registered nurse practitioner at Honesdale Family Health Center.
Ÿ Margaret Shultz, Montoursville, a small-business owner and a grandmother of 13.
Ÿ Janet Sterba, West Hazleton, a retired drug and alcohol center director and a motorcycle enthusiast.
Ÿ Jill Wetzel, Factoryville, a ballroom dance instructor and a mother of three.