Jeff Jardine: Modesto post office gathering delivers big message

10/23/2013 6:42 PM

10/24/2013 8:18 AM

As breast cancer awareness events go, the one Wednesday morning at Modesto’s main post office was pretty small – maybe 30 people in all.

No matter. The message is the same no matter how many attend. Breast cancer is a disease that affects everyone – moms, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, nieces and friends, which means it also affects dads, grandfathers, sons, brothers, nephews and friends.

In fact, pack either the Coliseum in Oakland or AT&T Park in San Francisco with fans, and ask those who have in some way been affected by the disease to stand.

“That happened at an A’s game on Breast Cancer Awareness Day (Sept. 1),” Kearney Avenue Postmaster Jennifer Gowans said. “Just about everyone was standing.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. When you see folks wearing pink, chances are they are doing so to support the cause and fight a disease that is all around us.

Before I went to the post office for the ceremony, I visited with a close friend who recently had breast cancer surgery and is preparing for another round of chemotherapy.

Inside the post office, a copy of HerLife magazine rested among the breast cancer information brochures and other literature on a table. The magazine’s cover featured dancer Melissa Galvin of Stockton, a breast cancer survivor but also a victim because the disease claimed her mother, Linda, in 2011. I knew the Galvins well when I lived in Stockton in the 1980s. Melissa was a little kid at the time.

Also at the post office is a pink mailbox used as a prop for breast cancer awareness events. Once a dented, rusting piece of metal, workers at the Burnside Body Shop volunteered to do the repairs and paint job, adding the words “October is all about pink” on the front.

Gowans stood alongside the mailbox, tearing up as she spoke. Breast cancer claimed her sister in Sacramento nine years ago. Gowans’ nieces and nephew recently were tested to determine whether they carry the same cancer gene which, in the girls’ case increases their risk while in her nephew’s case means his daughters could be at a higher risk some day. They are awaiting the results.

“We are hoping and praying,” she said, her voice choked by emotion.

“(Breast cancer) will affect one out of eight women,” The American Cancer Society’s Kelly Kelly said. She detailed other facts about the disease. Some 232,340 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in 2013. The numbers are down since 2000, declining after a study linked hormone therapy to breast cancer. Only skin cancer affects more American women than breast cancer.

Most important, Kelly said, “there are 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.”

Which emphasizes the value in promoting awareness because successes coincide with early detection and screening, improved technology and imploring more women to be proactive or seek care the moment they suspect something might be amiss. Simple health practices such as regular exercise, good nutrition, not smoking and limiting alcohol make a huge difference, Kelly said.

The Postal Service in 1997 unveiled a breast cancer stamp that now sells for 55 cents, which is 9 cents higher than the price of a regular first-class postage stamp. The difference goes toward research and promotion, and has generated about $90 million to date nationwide.

Among the local fundraising events this month, the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk in Modesto Oct. 13 raised $65,000 for the cause. Other events included a bike ride and a women’s expo. The Bee’s Oct. 7 editions included a special section with information about breast cancer, with a page-by-page click-through still available at modbee.com.

Businesses, as well as firefighters, wear pink to support the cause and raise awareness while the Stockton Thunder hockey team will turn its ice pink for games Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, as it has done every season since 2006-07 while raising $256,000 for breast cancer research during that time.

So yes, the word gets out in many forms. But the disease still remains. It threatens women, their families and friends. It scares.

True, the event Wednesday at the post office drew only a few dozen people. They got the message loud and clear, and they won’t keep it a secret.

Pink has its purpose.

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