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Breast cancer awareness 'making strides' and saving lives

In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October features a number of events across the country aimed at raising funds and educating the public about the importance of breast cancer screenings.

“Breast cancer in the U.S. is the second-leading cause of death. It affects just about all of us,” said Angela Lane, a longtime volunteer and committee chair for the American Cancer Society’s 2021 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Pensacola event to be held Saturday in downtown Pensacola.

Continuing to address pervasiveness, she notes that breast cancer impacts 1 out of every 8 women in the United States.

“This year alone there’s going to be 281,500 new cases, and unfortunately, more than 43,000 of those will lose their lives to breast cancer, so it’s extremely prevalent.”

Lane got involved with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and its local efforts shortly after moving to the Pensacola area in 2005. But, much of her journey to this point has been personal and began at age 7, when her grandmother passed away from breast cancer.

“Of course, at that age, you don’t really understand what’s going on. I just knew that something horrible took from my life someone I really wanted to know — so much more,” she lamented. “So, it always troubled me, and the more I grew in age, the more I wanted know about what had taken her from all of us.”

Lane became more engaged as a volunteer and participant in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, eventually starting her own team, working hard on behalf of survivors and religiously getting her own screenings.

Then, she recalls the life-changing news that came after her annual mammogram in September 2016.

“The next day, I received a phone call that they saw something and needed to do a little further screening. So, that turned into an appointment that led to an ultrasound and sure enough they found two tumors.”

That led to a biopsy that showed the two tumors were actually four.

“So there became my journey to be a survivor.”

Making Strides-1 Angela and Brent Lane.jpg
Angela Lane
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Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Pensacola
Breast cancer survivor and "Making Strides" Pensacola Chair Angela Lane poses for a photo with her husband, Brent Lane, at a recent event.

She decided to have a double mastectomy and several other surgeries to help ensure her body would continue to be cancer-free. And, although this was an extremely personal experience, she and her husband, local radio personality Brent Lane, chose be open about it.

“Before we even knew the diagnosis was cancer, we decided we were going to be public and try to use this as an opportunity to encourage others to take their health importantly, too,” she declared.

Everyone should take heed. That includes men. But, Lane is particularly concerned about women who’re often spread thin, taking care of everyone and everything — at home and work — and not taking the time to get their own annual screening.

Early detection, she says, is the best path to fighting and surviving breast cancer.

That advice is being echoed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who recently revealed that his wife, first lady Casey DeSantis, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

I do think that the lesson is: It wasn't like she was in a lot of pain. I mean these screenings and the things that you go, can really, really be life-saving," proclaimed DeSantis.

When high-profile people like the DeSantises publicly share their personal stories involving breast cancer, Lane believes it is helpful.

“I do, because I think it puts that little thought in the back of anyone’s mind, when they hear about that or see that,” she said, suggesting that it prompts individuals to look at their own life and consider when they were checked last and when to get scheduled.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month began in 1985. Lane believes this effort to focus attention on the disease has made a difference, helping to bolster screenings and improvements in treatment. Today, 3.8 million cancer survivors (including her) are living in the United States.

“Here we are, all dressed in pink with our game faces on,” begins an American Cancer Society PSA promoting this month’s nationwide “Making Strides” fundraiser.

Pensacola’s event, presented by Baptist Health Care, is now just a few days away, 8 a.m. Saturday at Seville Square.

“And, now we are kicked into high gear and I might be just a little bit excited,” declared the event committee chair, who added that she’s also ready to get back to a level of normalcy.

Due to COVID-19, last year’s walk was transformed into a drive-through affair at Five Flags Speedway. This year’s walk will be live and in-person, but still with some safety measures in place, such as masks and gloves for volunteers.

“We have added extra hand-washing stations, extra sanitizing stations,” she began. “We’re encouraging everybody to sign up online, and register early, so we don’t have to have that registration tent standing in a line all together and having to fill out forms and pens and all of that. We’ve also, unfortunately, had to eliminate the food tent.”

With preparations just about wrapped up, the focus is turning to the fundraising.

Angela Lane.jpg
Sandra Averhart
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WUWF Public Media
Angela Lane is a five-year breast cancer survivor and chair of the Pensacola "Making Strides" event.

“Our goal this year, we thought was a little lofty, because last year there weren’t a lot of funds coming in due to COVID. But, our goal is $150,000.”

At the time of Lane’s visit to the WUWF studios, 107 teams had raised more than $121,000 with about two weeks to go.

“I feel like we’ve hit this big head of steam and we’re going. It’s awesome,” she exclaimed.

For information about breast cancer research, treatment and support, and to register for the “Making Strides” Pensacola walk, Lane encourages individuals to visit the American Cancer Society website.

And, with the final word, she urged “get that screening.”

“Oh, please, please, please, don’t be too busy. Make it a priority.”

Do it, she says, for your family, your friends and yourself.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.