PPLA was thrilled to be invited to the upcoming Get In Touch Foundation’s Pretty In Pink Luncheon and Women of Strength Awards hosted by Rob Lowe. We were ecstatic to have the opportunity to do an advance interview with the Get In Touch Foundation’s Founder Mary Ann Wasil and the event Co-Chair Angelique L’Amour to learn more about the foundation’s mission!
The year’s benefit event is honoring Dr. Kristi Funk and Dr. Nalini Chilkov. The mission of The Get In Touch Foundation is to provide breast health initiatives that educate gals and guys of all ages how to “get in touch” with their bodies, information, and each other in our crusade against breast cancer.
The Get In Touch Girls’ Program & the Daisy Wheel breast health initiative educates girls in grades 5-12 on the importance of, and how to do a breast self-exam, for life. Hear what these inspiring women had to say about the foundation! We caught up with Founder Mary Ann Wasil first:
PPLA: How did you start the Get In Touch Foundation?
M.A. WASIL: The Get In Touch Foundation is a breast health organization whose cornerstone mission is our free Get In Touch Girls’ Program & Daisy Wheels, a free breast health educational initiative for girls in grades 5-12. I started the Get In Touch Foundation after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 at the age of 39. I had no family history of breast cancer. I knew that this was not true for my daughters – I was their family history of breast cancer. I began the conversation with them about breast health and the importance of “getting in touch” with their bodies when I realized what a mistake it was to wait until breast cancer was in the picture before we had these conversations with our children. I taught them how to do a breast self exam and encouraged them to become familiar with their bodies; to become an expert on their own body. And then I realized this was something that all of our daughters, not just the ones that call me “Mom” would benefit from. Our free Get In Touch Girls’ Program & Daisy Wheel teaches girls from grades 5 through 12 the importance of and how to do a breast self-exam – for life.
PPLA: What types of programs does Get In Touch Foundation offer?
M.A. WASIL: We launched our free program on September 1, 2009 and School Nurses in 23 states signed up in the first 24 hours! Daisy Wheels have rolled into the hands of 500,000 girls, and our Daisy Wheel app, available for free on the iTunes Store, has been downloaded by girls in 80 countries since launching in June 2011. As long as breast cancer continues to be diagnosed, we will continue to advocate for gals – and guys – of all ages to “get in touch” with their bodies.
PPLA: Do any other celebrities support the foundation?
M.A. WASIL: Our friend Ben Vereen performed last year at our 1st New York City Pretty In Pink Luncheon, a Broadway-themed event held at The Yale Club of NYC. This year’s event featured Broadway legend Loni Ackerman and the incredible Seth Kravits, as well as other Broadway performers. Olympic Gold Medalist Taylor Ritzel, who rowed in the Women’s 8+ in London in 2012, is a big supporter of Get In Touch; our Laces For Lana campaign is named after her mother, who passed away from breast cancer in 2011. We are especially excited that our new friend Rob Lowe has agreed to host our 1st Los Angeles Pretty In Pink Luncheon & Women of Strength Awards! Rob’s mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all diagnosed with breast cancer, so our mission of education and early detection resonates with him, as it does with so many people, on a very personal level.
PPLA: Why are Dr. Kristi Funk and Dr. Nalini Chilkov considered Women of Strength?
M.A. WASIL: Dr. Kristi Funk and Dr. Nalini Chilkov are the epitome of “strength” in that they provide theirs to the women that they care for in their respective practices. Both of these dynamic compassionate and brilliant women have made it their life’s work, their ministry if you will, to care for women who have dealt with a life changing diagnosis. Dr. Funk and Dr. Chilkov are “strong” when their patients are “weak,” and having been a breast cancer survivor and patient for more than ten years now, I appreciate the medical, emotional, and personal strength that these remarkable women offer their patients. It makes all the difference to a woman who may be feeling quite vulnerable because of her breast cancer diagnosis. Dr. Funk and Dr. Chilkov are true Women of Strength.
PPLA: What types of steps can we take for early detection of breast cancer?
M.A. WASIL: Breast self-exam saved my life. I was 39 when I felt the lump in my breast and had a negative mammogram. I knew my body well enough to push for a biopsy that revealed a stage two diagnosis. I like to say that all of the tools we have to diagnose breast cancer – breast self-exam, clinical breast exam, mammography, ultrasound, MRI – they are all instruments in the symphony of our good health. It is not a matter of “either/or”, it is a matter of “and/all.” Based on your body and your breast density, what works for one woman may not work for another, early detection is not one-size-fits-all. But breast self-exam is non-invasive, without radiation, and it is free. By “getting in touch” with your body and working closely with your doctor, if and when you do discover something that you know isn’t right for you, we are that much closer to early detection. Early detection matters. It matters a lot.
PPLA: How can people get involved in the organization?
M.A. WASIL: There are three things we would like people to do to help us in our mission of breast health for all: (1) Do your breast self-exam. Whether you are a man or a woman, we’ve all got breast tissue and we need to “get in touch” with our bodies to know what our normal, healthy breast tissue feels like. (2) Introduce a School Nurse in your community to our free Get In Touch Girls’ Program & Daisy Wheels. (3) Donate. Any size donation makes a difference. We have placed 500,000 Daisy Wheels into the hands of girls all over the world and each Daisy Wheel costs approximately $2.00 a piece to produce and deliver. No donation is too small.
As if Mary Ann Wasil wasn’t inspiring enough, we had the pleasure of speaking with Angelique L’Amour next:
PPLA: Please tell us about the “Pretty in Pink” Luncheon.
A. L’AMOUR: This luncheon began in the back of my mind the minute I found The Get In Touch Foundation by Googling “how to teach breast self exam to girls,” but it really started to come together last fall. Mary Ann and I met through her website and I had, over the last few years, taught 450 girls at Marymount High School and La Reina, but I wanted to do more. I am a 4 and 1/2 year breast cancer survivor and a mother of two daughters. I wanted to protect them and their peers by teaching them breast self-exam but also by raising money for Get In Touch. Then Mary Ann suggested honoring Dr. Kristi Funk, the most well-respected and well-known breast surgeon in the world. Dr. Funk is a graduate, as event co-chair Jennifer Nicholson Salke and I are, of Marymount. I saw on Facebook that I had a mutual friend with Dr. Funk. I emailed my friend who then emailed Kristi at 9 p.m. and by 11 the next morning, she had agreed to be honored by us and come to the event. This meant we could do something really special.
PPLA: Why was Rob Lowe chosen to host the event?
A. L’AMOUR: Rob Lowe is a dear friend of Jennifer Nicholson Salke, president of NBC Entertainment. She asked him knowing of his personal interest in the cause and his family history of breast cancer. We are so blessed that he is on board and willing to host and share his story.
PPLA: How can people get involved with the event?
A. L’AMOUR: They can buy a ticket, a table or an ad in our program – or all three! The luncheon is going to be lovely in the prettiest ballroom in the area. We are having a silent auction and Dr. Funk and Dr. Chilkov, our other recipient, will join others who will be sharing their stories.
PPLA: If people can’t make the event, can they still donate?
A. L’AMOUR: Absolutely! On the event page on GetInTouchFoundation.org, there is information about the event. At the bottom of the page, there is a Donate button or donors can simply click on Donate. Every $20 educates 10 girls with this lifesaving and simple technique. In fact, a few of my friends who don’t live in Los Angeles and can’t make it to the event, are doing just that.
Stay tuned for our coverage of the Pretty in Pink Luncheon!