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LaGrange painted pink for breast cancer awareness

Breast cancer survivors raise awareness

Staff and contributed report

Sarah Peacock, a country music singer based in Nashville, Tenn., takes a selfie with the crowd at the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange on Saturday.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown01.jpgSarah Peacock, a country music singer based in Nashville, Tenn., takes a selfie with the crowd at the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange on Saturday.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Employees of the Troup County Health Department volunteer Saturday at the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown02.jpgEmployees of the Troup County Health Department volunteer Saturday at the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Wanda Lowe, a cancer navigator with West Georgia Health, marches to victory during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown03.jpgWanda Lowe, a cancer navigator with West Georgia Health, marches to victory during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Breast cancer survivors release balloons to celebrate recovery and in memory of those who lost their breast cancer battles during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown04.jpgBreast cancer survivors release balloons to celebrate recovery and in memory of those who lost their breast cancer battles during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Volunteers prepare to distribute balloons to breast cancer survivors during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown05.jpgVolunteers prepare to distribute balloons to breast cancer survivors during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Cheri Pound, left, and Ebonie Wilson, members of the cancer survivor group Breast Friends for Life, volunteer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown06.jpgCheri Pound, left, and Ebonie Wilson, members of the cancer survivor group Breast Friends for Life, volunteer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Lisa Arnold, right, photographs Mamie Cameron, left, a breast cancer survivor, and Lynn Stewart at the the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown07.jpgLisa Arnold, right, photographs Mamie Cameron, left, a breast cancer survivor, and Lynn Stewart at the the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Breast cancer survivors prepare to cross the finish line after a 10-mile walk to raise awareness of breast cancer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown08.jpgBreast cancer survivors prepare to cross the finish line after a 10-mile walk to raise awareness of breast cancer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Jordan Pye, right, laughs as she paints a pink ribbon on the hand of Jessica Moore, right, during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown09.jpgJordan Pye, right, laughs as she paints a pink ribbon on the hand of Jessica Moore, right, during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Participants of a 10-mile breast cancer awareness walk prepare to cross the finish line Saturday during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown10.jpgParticipants of a 10-mile breast cancer awareness walk prepare to cross the finish line Saturday during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

A breast cancer survivor prepare to cross the finish line after a 10-mile walk to raise awareness of breast cancer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_WEBPaintTheTown11.jpgA breast cancer survivor prepare to cross the finish line after a 10-mile walk to raise awareness of breast cancer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Sarah Peacock, a country music singer based in Nashville, Tenn., takes a selfie with the crowd at the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange on Saturday.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown01.jpgSarah Peacock, a country music singer based in Nashville, Tenn., takes a selfie with the crowd at the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange on Saturday.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Employees of the Troup County Health Department volunteer Saturday at the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown02.jpgEmployees of the Troup County Health Department volunteer Saturday at the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Wanda Lowe, a cancer navigator with West Georgia Health, marches to victory during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown03.jpgWanda Lowe, a cancer navigator with West Georgia Health, marches to victory during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Breast cancer survivors release balloons to celebrate recovery and in memory of those who lost their breast cancer battles during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown04.jpgBreast cancer survivors release balloons to celebrate recovery and in memory of those who lost their breast cancer battles during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Volunteers prepare to distribute balloons to breast cancer survivors during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown05.jpgVolunteers prepare to distribute balloons to breast cancer survivors during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Cheri Pound, left, and Ebonie Wilson, members of the cancer survivor group Breast Friends for Life, volunteer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown06.jpgCheri Pound, left, and Ebonie Wilson, members of the cancer survivor group Breast Friends for Life, volunteer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Lisa Arnold, right, photographs Mamie Cameron, left, a breast cancer survivor, and Lynn Stewart at the the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown07.jpgLisa Arnold, right, photographs Mamie Cameron, left, a breast cancer survivor, and Lynn Stewart at the the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Breast cancer survivors prepare to cross the finish line after a 10-mile walk to raise awareness of breast cancer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown08.jpgBreast cancer survivors prepare to cross the finish line after a 10-mile walk to raise awareness of breast cancer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Jordan Pye, right, laughs as she paints a pink ribbon on the hand of Jessica Moore, right, during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown09.jpgJordan Pye, right, laughs as she paints a pink ribbon on the hand of Jessica Moore, right, during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

Participants of a 10-mile breast cancer awareness walk prepare to cross the finish line Saturday during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown10.jpgParticipants of a 10-mile breast cancer awareness walk prepare to cross the finish line Saturday during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

A breast cancer survivor prepare to cross the finish line after a 10-mile walk to raise awareness of breast cancer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2015/09/web1_CMYKPaintTheTown11.jpgA breast cancer survivor prepare to cross the finish line after a 10-mile walk to raise awareness of breast cancer during the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event Saturday in downtown LaGrange.

Tyler H. Jones | Daily News

LaGRANGE — Hundreds of people from across the state gathered in downtown LaGrange on Saturday for the annual Paint The Town Pink breast cancer awareness event and walk.

The morning included the HOPE — Helping Other People Endure — for a Day Walk, a 10-mile fundraising journey of hope to strive for a day without cancer. The walk started six years ago when an Atlanta organization that distributes money for breast cancer care denied funding to West Georgia Health and Breast Friends for Life for their outreach programs.

Breast Friends for Life co-founder Pam Herndon of LaGrange, whose sister, Jeanie Carlson, died of breast cancer, suggested that Breast Friends for Life start a local walk—one that would keep the money raised in Troup and surrounding counties for breast cancer patients and their families.

The inaugural walk netted $66,000, way beyond expectations. In its five years, walkers have raised over half a million dollars for the West Center Georgia Cancer Coalition’s and District 4 Health Services’ breast health and cancer care services; breast health screenings and mammogram vouchers for qualified women and men; and scholarships for family members of those who have had breast cancer.

Proceeds also have helped men and women with breast cancer who have needed help financially with utility bills, rent and prescription purchases. The group has even given funds to one mother with breast cancer so she would have the means to throw her 10-year-old son a birthday party.

Five years ago this month, the Rev. Carol Cook’s words echoed through a microphone on Lafayette Square as she opened the annual Paint the Town Pink event with prayer.

It was the fifth year of the annual awareness and fundraising event, when hundreds of community members come together the last weekend in September to raise money for local breast cancer patients, to provide free clinical breast exams and mammogram vouchers to qualified women, and to celebrate survivorship and hope.

On that day, Cook had no way of knowing that three years later, she would be fighting breast cancer herself.

“I received my diagnosis in January 2013,” she said. “It really threw me for a loop. I had never really been sick before.”

She got the news from her doctor on a Monday, and by Tuesday, she and her husband heard a knock on the door. It was Wanda Lowe, cancer care navigator at West Georgia Health and also a member of Breast Friends for Life, a local breast cancer support group.

“Wanda came with hugs and comfort and two books, one for me and one for my husband,” Cook said. “She gave me a breast cancer treatment guide along with a companion guide for my husband. I still refer to that book.”

Lowe and Cook both are now members of Breast Friends for Life, one of the main sponsors of Paint the Town Pink. The other main sponsors are West Georgia Health, HOPE for a Day, District 4 Public Health and the West Central Georgia Cancer Coalition.

Sherry Callaway, also a co-founder of Breast Friends for Life, said the BFFL support group and the HOPE for a Day walk have helped her channel her personal victory against breast cancer 19 years ago into a way to help other men and women with breast cancer cope with the disease.

“Our acronym for HOPE stands for Helping Other People Endure,” Callaway said. “I believe that God’s plan for me was to endure and in so doing, help others.”

Mary Ann Hodnett, a breast cancer survivor who is now a secretary in West Georgia Health’s Oncology Services Department, said the women in BFFL were a godsend.

“I met Wanda (Lowe) the day before my surgery in 2010, and she brought me a basket filled with all kinds of things to help lift my spirits,” Hodnett said. “I met the Breast Friends group soon after that.

“They’ve become my closest friends. We don’t have to explain things to each other. It’s a safe place where everyone can relate to each other even though our treatments may have been different. My husband and I joke that since I’m not from here, I had to get cancer to get friends.”

BFFL member Pam Barnes said she chose humor to cope with her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and she appreciates the humor and camaraderie among the support group members as well.

“I tell people that radiation was one of the best times of the worst part of my life,’” she said. “Dru Morman (a WGH radiation therapist since 1981) actually made radiation a pleasant experience, if you can believe that.”

Other group members said they enjoy the humor and friendship that Barnes brings to the group. After her last radiation treatment, Barnes started telling people that she “graduated from Camp Nukemboobie.”

During the early years of Paint the Town Pink, Barnes created the lyrics of “Get Your Mammogram,” sung to the tune of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” and performed it on Lafayette Square. It was in speaking about her story that she came up with the slogan: “Get Your Mammies Grammed.”

Mary Ann Hodnett, a breast cancer survivor who is now a secretary in West Georgia Health’s Oncology Services Department, said the women in BFFL were a godsend.

“I met Wanda (Lowe) the day before my surgery in 2010, and she brought me a basket filled with all kinds of things to help lift my spirits,” Hodnett said. “I met the Breast Friends group soon after that.

“They’ve become my closest friends. We don’t have to explain things to each other. It’s a safe place where everyone can relate to each other even though our treatments may have been different. My husband and I joke that since I’m not from here, I had to get cancer to get friends.”

Breast cancer survivor Charlotte Marshall likened her diagnosis to being in a “club.”

“It’s like joining a sorority, a very selective one, that you didn’t initially want to be a part of,” she said. “But when I found this group of women, I felt an immediate connection, a bond where I don’t have to say anything if I don’t feel like it, and I still feel supported.

“I really found some kindred spirits being with other survivors.”

A press release from West Georgia Health contributed to this report.