'Celebrate Life' Honors Breast Ca Survivors and Families

June 1, 1995

NEW YORK--About 300 breast cancer survivors and hundreds of family, friends, physicians, and supporters gathered at the Plaza Hotel for a luncheon to celebrate breast cancer survival.

NEW YORK--About 300 breast cancer survivors and hundreds of family,friends, physicians, and supporters gathered at the Plaza Hotelfor a luncheon to celebrate breast cancer survival.

The third annual Celebrate Life luncheon, sponsored by the NationalAlliance of Breast Cancer Organizations (NABCO), was attendedby a host of notables, including Larry Norton, MD, who receivedthe Pathbreaker award, and, via videotape, President Clinton,whose mother had breast cancer (see below).

Not a Hallmark Anniversary

Amy Langer, NABCO's executive director, and a breast cancer survivor,told the guests it was a joyful meeting of a club whose membersdid not ask to join.

NBC-TV correspondent Betty Rollin, author of the book, First YouCry, about her cancer diagnosis, came up with the idea for thefirst Celebrate Life event. This year's gathering, she said ata press conference, had particular meaning for her. "It ismy 20th cancer anniversary. Hallmark makes no cards, I have noticed,for cancer anniversaries. We're going to celebrate anyway."

Ms. Rollin said she sometimes gets nervous about being too cheerfulabout breast cancer. "People will start thinking I'm recommendingit, which I am not. But for those of us who survive . . . we can'thelp being cheerful and grateful. We want very much to get theword out to all of the very frightened women in America to gettheir mammograms."

The theme of this year's luncheon was the role of family in recoveryfrom breast cancer. Personifying the theme were the breast cancersurvivors and their family members who were being honored or servingas honorary co-chairs. These included Ernestine Schlant Bradley,PhD, a breast cancer survivor, and her husband, Senator Bill Bradleyof New Jersey; Ms. Rollin and her husband, Dr. Ed Edwards; artistElizabeth Zahn and her daughter, CBS television anchor Paula Zahn;and former New York congresswoman Bella Abzug and her daughters,Eve and Liz Abzug.

While the theme of the NABCO event was the support the familygives to the patient, it was clear from conversations at lunchthat cancer survivors support their families as well. One womantold Oncology News International of trying to shield her daughterby not mentioning her fears of recurrence, while several of thewomen at the table nodded in agreement.

Pathbreaker Award to Dr. Norton

NABCO represents a network of more than 350 organizations providingdetection, education, treatment, and care to breast cancer patientsand survivors.

The organization's Pathbreaker Award, given for the first timethis year, was presented to Dr. Norton, chief of Breast and GynecologicalMedicine, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York. Dr.Norton is coinventor of the Norton-Simon Hypothesis, a mathematicalmodel of tumor growth that has significantly influenced breastcancer treatment plans.

Recent scientific developments, Dr. Norton remarked, made it possiblefor him to overcome his customary medical conservatism. He saidthat never in the history of medicine and science has there beenmore excitement about understanding the basic causes of cancer,and breast cancer in particular.

"Fundamental knowledge learned in the laboratory is now beingrapidly transferred to the clinic. It has enormous potential tomake a difference in the way the disease is diagnosed, treated,and prevented," he said.

Personal Message From President Clinton

In a videotaped address to the Celebrate Life luncheon, PresidentClinton said that the family theme had a personal meaning forhim.

"It is especially close to my heart because breast canceris present in my family tree. My mother's illness deeply affectedour family. Her strength and love of life inspired us all, andevery day she is in our thoughts. So we dedicate ourselves tothe eradication of breast cancer in the lives of American womenand their families."

The President thanked survivors and families for their strength,courage, and perseverance, and extended his best wishes "foranother year of celebrating life."