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The Rose slates luncheon to promote breast health, raise funds

February 28, 2018 GMT

She was uninsured, and without The Rose, she may have not received the mammogram that detected her breast cancer and the treatment that followed.

Audris Valoy had noticed the lump a few years earlier but thought it had been related to her breast-feeding, but when the lump started hurting, a friend told her about the Rose.

Before her mammogram in November 2016, she took a pregnancy test in the office and learned she was expecting again. She said she was very excited about the news and had even started thinking names for the child when she got the news that she had breast cancer. Valoy said she was shocked by her diagnosis, but The Rose helped her find care even though she lacked healthcare coverage.

Today, though she is still getting radiation to make sure the cancer does not come back, she said she is considered to be in remission.

The organization that helped her provides breast health services, advocacy and access to care to approximately 40,000 insured and uninsured women each year plans to host its sixth annual luncheon April 18

The “A Time to Care” luncheon will encourage women to take time for self-care. Valoy said women should pay attention to what is happening with their bodies and to seek care when something feels off.

“I think that when you feel your body is telling you something, listen to it. Be honest with your doctors,” she said.

Valoy said The Rose was very helpful during her experience and that she is thankful to be well again.

“They’ve been with me since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and they always keep in contact with me,” Valoy said. “They are always calling me to see how I’m doing in my treatment, and I’m really grateful for them because if it wasn’t for them, I think I would have been lost. They even helped me with being seen somewhere else. They helped me if my insurance was about to change.”

The Rose has two locations, one in southeast Houston and one in the Galleria area, that have served women from more than 90 Texas counties, according Laura Schwinn, The Rose board member and luncheon chair. She said even though The Rose is a nonprofit, it still has state-of-the-art equipment, including 3D imaging. It also has one mobile 3D imaging unit that goes out to underserved communities and to corporations where women can avoid taking a lot of time off from work in order to get a mammogram. Several other mobile units also do 2D imaging, and Schwinn said the organization plans to get a second 3D mobile unit soon.

Schwinn said The Rose’s services go well beyond just detecting cancer.

“Imagine [how] one of the worst days in your life could be being diagnosed with breast cancer and if you don’t know how to find the right care or don’t know where to go or what to expect,” she said. “Having that patient navigation program that The Rose has helps you and your family get through that system. So it’s not just about the screening and finding that lump, whether that lump is cancerous or not. If it is, how do you get through the system, find the treatment and get the doctors? All of those things are pretty overwhelming especially, if you don’t have coverage and you’re not at a hospital.”

After Valoy was diagnosed, The Rose helped her to apply for Medicaid and got her connected with doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center. She said her oncologist there wanted her to wait until her pregnancy had progressed before starting treatment, so she started a form of chemotherapy that was safe for her baby in February or March of 2017. Her little girl was born healthy in June, and afterward Valoy began receiving a stronger form of chemo. She said the treatments were a difficult experience for her family.

“At the beginning, it was kind of hard, especially for my little girl to see [as] I lost all my hair. It was like she was in shock,” Valoy said. “I even remember one time when my little boy said, ‘Mommy, let me rub your head.’ After he rubbed my head, he said ‘You’re like a rock star.’ There were times when they were sweet, and there were times when my daughter would come home looking for my hair to grow back. They expected my hair to grow overnight.”

Schwinn said women who attend the luncheon will meet other professional women and be inspired to take care of themselves as well as others, all while contributing to the care and health of women like Valoy.

“This lunch is focused for is a combination of being with like-minded women-we’re all busy, we’re all taking care of a bunch of people,” she said. “Come listen to [our keynote speaker] Karen Walrond, and learn about how you can live with intention and a sense of adventure and learn how to take care of yourself and support a great cause.

Walrond is an attorney, photographer, author, leadership coach and speaker that also has an award-winning blog, www.chookooloonks.com. Schwinn said Walrond’s speech will highlight how everyone has inner strength and can live life with a purpose.

“She’ll be speaking about how all of us have a bit of a superhero inside of us and how we can [help others], especially in light of Hurricane Harvey,” she said. “You know what that brought out was the best of the whole community of Houston; how we helped each other and how giving and doing good really is rewarding as an individual. So the more you do good, the better you feel.”

For the first time, this year’s luncheon’s host committee includes two men, and Schwinn said some men also attend the event. She said she felt this was important because men are affected when the women in their lives face cancer.

“When a woman, a mother, a sister, a wife gets diagnosed with breast cancer, the circle that it impacts is pretty significant, and men are most certainly a part of those circles,” she said. “It is important to acknowledge that, like my father when my step mother was diagnosed and subsequently passed. That had a big impact on him as well. Men are 50 percent of this population, and they’re impacted by this.”

Schwinn said she wants other to hear about The Rose so that they can take advantage of the services it provides or get involved with the organization.

“There are a lot of people in the Memorial, Heights and Bellaire area who are unaware of what The Rose does,” she said. “If nothing else, everybody wins if more people learn about The Rose and get as inspired as I did when I saw the great work that they do. I really want everybody to know about this group because they help women who are both insured and uninsured. Regardless of your ability to pay, you have a place to go in what is a really difficult time.”

The luncheon will be held April 18 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at The Junior League of Houston at 1811 Briar Oaks Lane, Houston. To learn more about The Rose or to register for the luncheon, visit www.therose.org. For questions, email events@therose.org or call 281-464-5165.