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In The Pink, And Teal – Cancer Survivors Come Together To Raise Funds For Research – Burlington County Times

October 24, 2016 by By Sally Friedman, correspondent

She felt a bit like Cinderella going to the ball on a recent evening.

For a delightful space of time, Helen Nichter, of Cherry Hill, was being pampered, fussed over and most of all, feeling totally special as she tried on various beautiful outfits in the private world of a fashion boutique.

Nichter is one of the four honorees at the upcoming annual event known as “Pink Roses Teal Magnolias.”

The event, which is Sunday, brings together survivors of breast cancer and gynecologic cancers along with their families, friends and other cheerleaders, all in the name of raising research funds for South Jersey’s MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper.

Nichter’s tale is like so many others, yet different in one regard. Trained first as a nurse, and later as a physician’s assistant, she actually had experienced cancer in her family when she was 7 years old, and her father was diagnosed.

“I loved his nurse, and I think I knew then that I wanted to do something that would help people,” she said. And help she did, first as a bedside and ICU nurse and later in the world of breast cancer, all at Cooper.

Her own diagnosis came in August 2002, when she was 39.

Her spunk and spirit never deserted her, and she credits her colleagues at Cooper for their medical support, and her husband, Mark, for helping her move on to recovery.

Nichter’s daughter, Laura, 17, also was part of the team, and is extremely proud of her mom, who is known to give courage and strength to everyday women in her work at Cooper.

Surrounded by beautiful clothes — and lavish attention — at the elegant fashion boutique in Medford called Little Black Dress, with sales consultants Cyndy McCormick and Doria Schilling, Nichter was far removed from her own breast cancer struggle.

“But it all becomes a part of you, and that’s why the Pink Roses Teal Magnolias event is so important in this community,” said the 2016 honoree. “It’s important to keep awareness coming, and to keep research going.”

It was that double mission that caused Susan Bass Levin, former mayor of Cherry Hill, long-time community activist, and now president and CEO of the Cooper Foundation, to take a long look at the needs of women in the community when she had an inspiration back in 2010.

Aware of a small group devoted to fundraising for ovarian cancer in Haddonfield, Levin felt there was room — and need — for a larger effort.

“I envisioned a brunch that would address cancer, but would be expanded to encompass breast and gynecologic cancers,” said Levin, who herself is a survivor of ovarian cancer. “I saw the community spirit that was out there, ready to be tapped into.”

Levin also recognized the need for early detection, as was the case in her own diagnosis. “I felt blessed and grateful.”

And thus was this event born, bringing together hundreds of supporters.

As Levin emphasizes, the money raised by the event stays at Cooper, and is used for clinical and other programs that support women not just with medical treatment but also with auxiliary needs, from funds for transportation to treatment to emotional support and for mind-body therapy at no extra cost.

“There also are survivorship programs in place for after active treatment has ended, but support is still crucial,” said Levin.

The scenario is vivid for Donna Forman, who chairs this year’s event, and is herself a survivor. “Cancer changed my life forever,” she said, “and it has certainly made me value and treasure life.”

To be honored at the 2016 brunch at the Crowne Plaza in Cherry Hill are not only Cooper physicians, but also women who have experienced cancer and have messages to share.

One of them, Fran Lansford, 70, of Haddonfield, was also treated to the Little Black Dress experience, and loved selecting her simple dress which she will wear at the brunch.

“I’ve really just finished my treatment,” said Lansford, who was totally shocked by her diagnosis in June 2015.

She had diligently had mammograms, and had just cared for her late husband, Richard, through his own bout with cancer, when a post-mammogram biopsy revealed breast cancer.

“I loved my doctors, who traveled with me through the whole process, and I plan to public
ly thank them,” said the survivor, who will be one of several patients who will tell their stories at the brunch.

“Cancer definitely makes you aware of being diligent about your health. It has changed the way I live my life, it has taught me better nutrition, and I’ll be thinking pink for the rest of my life.”

Her message to others: “My diagnosis was like a raging hurricane. But I’m a survivor, and I can say now that my experience actually ended with a rainbow.”

The Pink Roses Teal Magnolias event is at the Crowne Plaza, Route 70, Cherry Hill from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $130. Brunch is included.

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