UF Health Cancer Center Kicks Off Pink October With Hope Hike
This morning, oncologists from UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health and a handful of elected officials joined hundreds of breast cancer patients, survivors and their supporters at Orlando City Hall for the annual Hope Hike. The event served as the kick off for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
During a short address to a pinked out crowd, speakers shared scary statistics like one in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime, every three minutes there is a new diagnosis, and every 13 minutes a woman dies from the disease. Dr. Nikita Shah, medical oncologist at UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health encouraged women to do a monthly self-breast exam and to receive regular mammograms, noting that if caught early, there is more than a 90 percent cure rate. Dr. Shah says typically there is an increase in breast cancer detections in October and November because events like the Hope Hike remind women to get their mammograms and perform their breast checks.
Then, Beverly Cunningham and Nancy Clutts, patients of the Cancer Genetic Center at UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health, shared their family’s story. Athletic Cunningham remembers feeling sore after a workout and thinking it was no big deal. But a lump developed by the end of that week and she immediately reached out to her doctor. She learned that she had triple negative, which is a subset of breast cancer. Combined with her family history, she was referred to genetic counseling. Clutts knew she needed to do it too. Both women were diagnosed as BRCA1 positive and began taking the necessary preventative measures for their health. Referring to all of the research and the resources that are available to breast cancer patients right here in Central Florida, Clutts says to breast cancer patients, “You do have hope and you can beat this.”
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and Orange County Commissioner Pete Clarke proclaimed the month as Pink October before the crowd headed to the back of Orlando City Hall to begin the 1.2 mile walk to UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health. Participants were decked out in various shades of pink clothing and accessories as a pink police cruiser escorted them along the route.
An event like this morning’s Hope Hike is important for the community on multiple levels. Not only does it provide another layer of awareness for women to participate in the preventative measures that could save their lives but it also allows survivors and their families to reconnect with the community that supported them in their journeys.
“We have so many survivors and so many patients, and it’s just a very passionate group of women, their family and their friends,” Katie Dagenais, media relations manager for Orlando Health, says. “They love seeing the oncologists and the nurses who treated them. For our folks, too, it’s a good opportunity to see the patients they have treated and to remember what it’s all about.”
The Hope Hike has been in existence for a decade. Last year, 150 people participated in the downtown Orlando event, and Dagenais expected about 200 people this year, along with many more at three other Hope Hike events around Central Florida. Additionally, hospital employees and members of the community walked from South Seminole Hospital on SR 434 to Longwood City Hall. At Health Central Hospital, participants hiked from the hospital’s atrium and continued through Ocoee, crossing SR 50 to the UF Health Cancer Center – Orlando Health facility. And participants at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital walked through the halls of the hospital as they visited cancer treatment areas.