Just because it's voluntary, doesn't make it easier.
A local woman shares an interesting tie with one of Hollywood's most adored celebrities.
Angelina Jolie is receiving even more media attention than usual following her recent decision to go under the knife for a voluntary double mastectomy. She says she did it so her kids will never have to worry about losing her.
A local woman made the same decision, but without the paparazzi spotlight. Lisa Smith remembers everything about her journey, from discovering she carried the BRCA (breast cancer susceptibility) gene to undergoing a mastectomy.
“I've had a cancer cyst removed. I carry the gene,” said Smith. “I chose not to have to fight for my life.”
The surgery and the recovery are rough, she said, and no less emotional for someone who did not have cancer.
“Having surgery of any kind is scary. Making the decision to have it is hard, even if you don't technically have to,” said Smith, who said this particular surgery takes an emotional toll on a woman.
She said whether people like to admit it or not, a mastectomy impacts the way a woman feels about herself, her femininity and her sexuality.
“Her decision to change her body could affect her career,” said Smith of Jolie. “but it's not just celebrities. Cancer does not discriminate.”
As Smith embarked on the recovery process she heard a radio advertisement for Breast Cancer Assistance Program.
BCAP is a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to patients undergoing cancer treatments. What makes BCAP different is that it does not focus on medical costs.
The organization was founded by Angela Walters, a cancer survivor, in 2006. The organization's vision is to provide temporary financial assistance with costs such as rent, mortgage, utilities, fuel costs and other day-to-day living expenses.
“Angela realized that a large number of these cancer patients were worried about meeting their basic financial needs rather than focusing on getting well,” the official BCAP website says.
Patients must only provide proof that they are currently undergoing cancer treatments to be eligible to receive assistance, it is not income-based.
“Research into cancer is crucial but many organizations only focus there,” said Smith. “BCAP is about the now. It is about meeting a need for daily life, it's about paying the bills. BCAP exists in hopes that cancer patients won't have to pick between mortgage and treatments.”
“Seeing women that have gone through cancer, it drains everything out of you. To know that BCAP makes a difference really caught my attention. It means a lot to me and I immediately wanted to get involved,” said Smith.
That desire led her to the decision to host Crafting for a Cure, a craft fair whose proceeds will benefit BCAP directly.
The event includes both indoor and outdoor vendors who just want to help the cause.
“I have vendors that are paying their booth space plus donating a portion of their profits,” said Smith. “Some have donated raffle items, door prizes and gift certificates.”
The booth rent, she said, is $35 and 100 percent tax deductible. As of yet there are still a few booth spaces available to rent.
Smith said this fundraiser is several months in the making and she is excited about the number and quality of vendors that are dedicated to participating.
The event will be in the Adair Community Building, which was donated free of charge. Crafters are donating items for a bake sale, 100 percent of those proceeds going directly to BCAP. Concession proceeds, not food sold by vendors, will go directly to BCAP as well.
“This is my first BCAP event and I could not be more excited about it. We have Diamondhead Wine coming to do a wine tasting and they'l have their blueberry wine that just won gold at a national competition. The Happy Smoker out of Yukon will be there selling barbecue for lunch and snacks,” said Smith.
Ella's Dips and Western Bling are among the many vendors.
With wine, weekend resort getaways, barbecue and bling, there is something for the entire family.
Smith encourages women to take charge of their health and talk to the doctor about the gene. Even though the conversations might be uncomfortable, she said they are crucial. She said it's important to be proactive, but not paranoid.
“Women need to know these organizations exist. Women especially tend to focus on their families and their kids and not themselves, this just takes the pressure off and let's them focus on getting well.
“Everyone from the silver screen elite to local moms can find a way to get involved,” she said.
Crafting for a Cure is Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m to 6 p.m at the Adair Community Building. For more information, or to rent booth space, contact Lisa at 918-292-9537.
For more information about BCAP visit their Facebook page or their website, www.bcapfund.org.
If you are a cancer treatment patient interested in receiving assistance, call 918-637-8627.