On December 4, a very special Holiday party took place at Lido di Manhattan restaurant, in Manhattan Beach, CA.
A casual passerby, looking into the airy, sunlit room, would have seen many women greeting each other, exchanging hugs, gathering together to share the latest goings-on in their lives and be with relatives and friends. On closer inspection, however, our passerby would have seen that these women were bonded by a common aspect of their lives - breast cancer.
This Holiday party was hosted by Ms. Evelyn Calip, the founder of "Evelyn's Breast Friends Forever", a nonprofit organization she founded in March, 2011, to help breast-cancer Survivors and their Supporters, during their treatment for breast cancer. "Evelyn's Breast Friends Forever" hosts various fund-raising events throughout the year, the proceeds of which go towards events similar to this one.
Events such as these encourage Survivors and their Supporters to bond and exchange information, thus helping each other through their journey with breast cancer, in a relaxing and fun-filled atmosphere. At this particular event, attendees could lunch on appetizers, get their pictures taken while wearing pink Santa Clause hats and just in general unwind, escaping the day-to-day concerns associated with their medical conditions.
Adding to the fun was the opportunity to bid on items donated by the Community in a silent auction. One Supporter donated jewelry items which looked like they came from a fine jeweler; another donated a Cam Corder. Hand-made quilts honoring Breast Cancer Survivors were also donated, as were gift certificates and beauty items, with proceeds going to "Evelyn's Breast Friends Forever".
Besides hosting events, Ms. Calip is helping Suvivors in other ways as well. Recently honored by Oprah Winfrey for her efforts, she has created "Evelyn's Corner" at Torrance Memorial Medical Center, which sells products such as camisoles, foam pads, books and other items for women who have just undergone breast reconstruction.
One attendee who worked with Ms. Calip to create "Evelyn's Corner" is Lodel Yerro Caplan. Ms. Yerro Caplan is currently working with Evelyn to make prosthetics available to breast-cancer Survivors as well through "Evelyn's Corner", which should be available for purchase via the web in the very near future.
Ms. Yerro Caplan strongly feels Evelyn's events help Supporters and Survivors bond, because they can find others with similar stories, and help each other get through the treatment process.
Another attendee was Kathy Meyer, a breast-cancer mentor, who had LAT Flap reconstructive surgery, whereby skin and muscle from a patient's upper back is used to reconstruct the breast.
Ms. Meyer works with breast-reconstruction patients who are undergoing similar reconstruction procedures, answering questions about the LAT Flap procedure and its possible side effects. She enjoys her role as breast cancer mentor, finding it "very rewarding", and she uses humor to try and help the patients get through the process more easily. When patients ask her how long and how badly the procedure will hurt, Ms. Meyer tells them, "I always wanted to be a cow girl, but now I feel like I've been kicked in the back by a horse, so I've changed my mind". She came to the Holiday luncheon to spend more time with some of the women whom she is mentoring, and bond with other Survivors as well.
Rosalind Vernoa, a nurse at UCLA, was attending as well. Originally from Belize, Central America, Ms. Vernoa indicated that the wife of Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and was heading to Florida, since the type of breast cancer-related treatment she was seeking was not available in Belize. Ms. Vernoa would like to see doctors and others volunteering their time to help women with breast cancer who cannot afford to pay for the surgical procedures in Belize.
Evelyn dreams of funding breast reconstruction for women who can't afford the procedure here in the United States; hopefully she will be able to sponsor surgery and reconstruction procedures on a world-wide basis, in places such as Belize, also.
When asked what she thought about Evelyn’s sponsored events, Ms. Vernoa replied, “I think Evelyn is doing a beautiful thing.”
Keep dreaming, Evelyn. You have the support of your family and friends - and the rest of the world is sitting up and taking notice!
Contributed by J. A. Druschke
on behalf of Evelyn's Breast Friends Forever