A cancer diagnosis can be devastating, but it’s no longer a death sentence.
October is breast cancer awareness month, and philanthropic organizations are out in force around Virginia Tech’s campus promoting awareness and fundraising.
Athletic teams are wearing pink wristbands to games, Greek organizations are setting up booths and organizing fundraisers, the solo cups at the Math Emporium are pink and girls are updating their Facebook statuses with exactly where they like — their purses.
The football team recently auctioned off the wristbands players wore during the Central Michigan game for $3,750 and gave the proceeds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
“There are so many women who battle breast cancer every day,” said Erin Beksel, the philanthropy chair of Tech’s Zeta Tau Alpha sorority.
Beksel said Zeta Tau Alpha has teamed up with the women’s soccer and volleyball teams to wear pink and raise money by selling the athletic department’s pink Beamerball bracelets for $1 each.
The sorority works with Think Pink, a national campaign that raises breast cancer awareness. One notable activity involves the distribution of pink ribbons stamped with the phrase “think pink.”
Aside from promoting awareness, research on Tech’s campus is looking into a potential treatment for cancer.
Chemistry professor Karen Brewer and a team led by biology department head Brenda Winkel have recently developed photodynamic compounds that can target cancer cells. These compounds are inactive until stimulated by a laser, allowing precision treatments. The team is continuing to research this treatment.
But for many women on Tech’s faculty, breast cancer awareness month is more than pink ribbons or photodynamic compounds.
Margaret McQuain and Abbie Kohler, both instructors in the math department, have fought breast cancer personally.
Kohler was diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago, while McQuain was diagnosed more recently.
McQuain’s doctors had been looking at a calcification in her breast for about a year before she decided to have it removed. “I had a lumpectomy, and they thought the lumpectomy would be all that I had to have. It was a very, very tiny calcification,” McQuain said.
Before doing a biopsy, doctors
thought the calcification was benign.
“It was really a shock when the results came back and it wasn’t, it was cancerous,” McQuain said. “They decided that I needed to do radiation and now they have me on tamoxifen.”
Radiation is a targeted treatment that damages the DNA of cells to kill them or prevent them from dividing. It harms normal cells as well as cancer cells, and can have unpleasant side effects.
But McQuain didn’t have to go through it alone.
“It’s amazing the number of faculty women that have had breast cancer,” McQuain said. “They have a support group and they called me immediately.”