Eugenia “Gina” Williams didn’t have time for breast cancer.
The Kettering resident had literally just given birth to her now 3-year-old son when she received a biopsy on a lump in her breast.
“I had 30 minutes to breastfeed him,” the Los Angeles-raised Dayton native recalled.
Four days later, the mother of three learned she had Stage 4 breast cancer.
Doctors told Williams, her mother and husband about options, but Williams did not take action for weeks.
She said she was naive about what the diagnoses meant and put everything else before her health, something she says African American and many other women often do.
“I did not take the time to think about what the doctors were taking about,” the now 39-year-old recalled. “It wasn’t that I was overwhelmed (by the diagnoses). I was focusing on the baby and my youngest daughter was 1 year old.”
Williams said she received help she never imagined she would need after she did a little research and came across The Pink Ribbon Girls.
Believed to be the only organization of its kind in the nation, the Tipp City-headquarter nonprofit provides free housekeeping, transportation to treatment, peer support and healthy meals specially prepared by chef Matthew Hayden of Scratch Catering to women and men fighting breast cancer and their families.
“(Executive Director) Heather (Salazar) called and said what can we do. How can I help you?” Williams said.
Pink Ribbon Girls was even more helpful when Williams’ cancer returned after 18 months and spread to her bones and brain.
For three months, Williams was virtually incapacitated as her body battled cancer and endured chemotherapy and other treatments.
The help from Pink Ribbon Girls proved invaluable, a now cancer-free Williams said.
“I couldn’t drive,” she said. “I couldn’t pour a glass of milk without spilling it. I couldn’t feed my family.”
Diana Featherstone, Pink Ribbon Girls’ director of marketing, said the organization founded in Cincinnati in 2002 changed its primary focus from educating young women about breast cancer to providing services about 3 years ago.
“We need to do something for these women while they are going through the fight,” said Featherstone, herself a breast cancer survivor.
Help is not tied to income.
“If you need help, you need help and you are not going to have t jump through hoops,” Featherstone said.
Featherstone said a local church provided food for her family while she battled Stage 2 breast cancer shortly after moving to the Dayton area eight years ago. She said she was fortunate that her husband’s job paid for a housekeeper.
Most breast cancer patients don’t have that kind of help even when friends and family are pitching in, she said.
Friends and family become fatigued as time goes on and treatment continues.
“We step in and give these people (the family and friends) a break,” Featherstone said.
Those with Stages 1 to 3 breast cancer receive three delivered meals a week and free housekeeping twice a month through Pink Ribbon Girls’ Simply Fight Program for three months.
Patients with metastatic breast cancer are assisted through the organizations’ NO Age NO Stage program. They are given credits that can be used for services they want and need.
Featherstone said Pink Ribbon Girls has a million dollar budget raised through third-party fundraisers, Driven by Hope sponsors, grants, donations and events like its recent Ignite the Fight bash.
Last year the organization provided 10,000 meals to families in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas.
Featherstone said the organization has distributed 25,000 meals thus far this year.
Kristie Mong of Vandalia said the Pink Ribbon Girls came to her aid as she battled breast cancer then mourned the sudden loss of her mother Emma Chatman from pancreatic cancer.
The mother of two urged women, often the family caregiver, to accept help.
“Reach out, find all the help you can get,” the former hairstylist said. “There is always somebody out there who can help.”
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