Very few hands went up Wednesday night at the Augusta Mariott at the Convention Center when comedian Anita Renfroe asked who has never received a mammogram.
For the dozen or so who raised their hands – among the 240 breast cancer survivors, friends, family and supporters of the University Health Care Foundation who attended The Augusta Chronicle’s We Think Pink banquet – Renfroe described wrangling with the paper top that no one gave her instructions about how to put on. Then of walking past rows of women waiting their turns – arms crossed “in the exact same position, defying gravity” – to go into the exam room where a huge piece of medical equipment waited.
“They want you to stand up to it and pull the top back, that you’ve now figured out how to get on. And they want you to lay ‘it’ on the altar. Just bring whatever offering you have,” she said.
The audience erupted in laughter, as she described watching the plastic tray flatten her breast.
“For some of you well-endowed girls, it’s like too much waffle mix in the waffle iron,” she said.
And then she got serious for a moment.
“I lost my grandmother to breast cancer when I was 18 years old,” she said. “I remember then and now being so angry at this disease.”
She invited all breast cancer survivors in the audience to stand and be recognized. The night was about honoring them and raising money to benefit University Health Care’s Breast Health Center and the Mobile Mammography Unit.
The center serves about 10,000 patients every year, said Pam Anderson, program coordinator for the breast health center. More than just offering diagnosis and treatment, the center focuses on education through community outreach and support to patients through support groups and the services like the Cat’s Pajamas Medical Boutique. The Mobile Mammography Unit makes the exam accessible to women who would not ordinarily have access to it.
Anderson is a breast cancer survivor herself. She was diagnosed 15 years ago and underwent a mastectomy, reconstruction and six months of chemotherapy.
“An event like this honors survivors and it increases the awareness to our community about breast cancer and also about if you find it early, you can survive,” she said.
Vanessa Pleze attended the banquet with her sister, Tina Jennings, who invited her.
Pleze wore a pearly tiara and a pink formal gown, looking every inch a princess.
Recently diagnosed with breast cancer, she had surgery to remove the lump on Aug. 8 and is waiting to begin her first chemotherapy treatment.
She said she was not wearing a tiara because of her cancer. She has worn one every day for the last four years for her granddaughter, 10-year-old Nykyla Johnson.
“I’m always her princess, so I wear it every day,” she said.