Doctor Mary Lynn Brown has spent her career surgically repairing patients’ hands. She knows how to fix people. But when her daughter asked her if she ever performed a self-exam to check for breast cancer, she realized she never had. Within two months, she was fighting a battle she never saw coming.
Standing in front of a group of dozens of doctors, nurses and people affected by breast cancer, she told her own story at the launch of the Pink Out Winter Park fundraiser on Thursday, Sept. 1.
“If you asked me a year ago if I thought I’d be here today, I’d have said you’re completely nuts,” Brown said about her sudden diagnosis and fight with cancer. “I always lived healthy, ran five miles a day ….”
Cancer had caught her by surprise, she said, but it didn’t have to.
With a handful of plastic pink flamingos flocking in the grass in front of her in Central Park, she urged the crowd to stay on top of self examinations and to get yearly mammograms if they can afford it. And if they can’t, she said, Pink Out Winter Park was there to help.
A flock of more than 50 flamingos is growing rapidly as it moves around Winter Park, thanks to the Pink Out Winter Park fund drive, which lets donors buy flamingos for $10 to add to the flock, which then travels around the city to raise breast cancer awareness.
Getting a jump on Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, the fund drive aims to turn Winter Park pink to get people talking about cancer and to raise money to pay for cancer screenings.
The fund drive has also partnered with local retailers to offer special deals with proceeds going toward the Mammography Scholarship Fund at Winter Park Memorial Hospital.
“Everybody knows somebody touched by cancer,” Winter Park Chamber of Commerce President Patrick Chapin said. “So business owners all have a connection to this. Plus, it’s fun and it brightens up the city.”
The fund helps women who can’t afford mammograms and other tests to get them for free.
Show your breast cancer support by purchasing a $10 pink flamingo at Doggie Door on Park Avenue, Winter Park Memorial Hospital Outpatient and Women’s Center, and Crosby and Winter Park YMCA.
Visit PinkOutWinterPark.com for a list of retailers offering deals that benefit the Mammography Scholarship Fund.
“It’s amazing how many people are not getting mammograms,” radiologist Dr. Jennie Yoon said. “There are 40,000 people who want a mammogram but can’t afford it.”
With that large a number of people at stake, the fund aims to help as many people as possible.
“Seventy-eight women were diagnosed with breast cancer in Winter Park last year,” Mayor Ken Bradley said. “The number of women diagnosed in their 20s and 30s is frightening.”
With the Pink Out campaign, Bradley said he hopes more people will become aware of breast cancer’s reach and think about detecting it earlier.
“We want people to go ‘Why are flamingos in Central Park?’ And we want people to say ‘I think it’s because of breast cancer — maybe I should get tested,’ ” he said.