O captain, my captain

Francine’s Friends table captains to meet in July

The Francine’s Friends October Lunch with Friends event is the highlight of the year for the organization dedicated to making early detection of breast cancer available to every woman in Fort Wayne and the surrounding counties. Part of that success is due to the table captains, many of whom are breast cancer survivors who not only donate their time and talent to coordinate the event, but share their stories, invite their friends and spread the word about the important work of Francine’s Friends.

glo-francine's-friends-table-captainDeb Conklin is among those who will be meeting at the Table Captain’s Luncheon on July 8 to discuss plans for the October event and she knows only too well how important early detection is to a cancer diagnosis. Although she had no pre-existing history of breast cancer in her family when her daughter, Betsy, (who is also a breast cancer survivor) went in for a mammogram in 2008, Conklin agreed to accompany her. She thought it would be a routine trip. She was wrong.

“I was diagnosed with a relatively mild form of the disease that was treated easily with a lumpectomy and radiation. Throughout my treatment I was still able to work full time in the office of continuing education at IPFW, but three years later, the cancer came back and I underwent a mastectomy and chemo.”

When she was healthy again, she became more involved with Francine’s Friends and their work to provide affordable mammograms to everyone. She said it is important for women to know that around 75 percent of women who are diagnosed do not have a history of breast cancer in their immediate family so it’s vital that they don’t skip those all-important screenings.

“Everyone is busy and I know it seems inconvenient, but catching it early is your best chance for a positive outcome,” she said.

Melissa Eshbach concurs. She was diagnosed at the age of 35 and thanks to that mammogram, was able to resolve her condition through a lumpectomy.

“I’m sure that early detection was a major contributor to their being able to resolve it as quickly and easily as possible,” she said.

Like Conklin, Eshbach’s contribution to Francine’s Friends goes far beyond her role as a table captain at the annual luncheon. She is constantly working to coordinate fundraisers with local business associations and participating in Pink Out events throughout Dekalb and Allen counties with the Auburn Chapter of Tri Kappa.

“We have about 50 members in my Tri Kappa chapter and breast cancer has touched so many of their lives. It almost doesn’t matter who we talk to in the community to rally support for the cause, everyone has a story that connects them to breast cancer,” she said.

Eshbach says that she is excited to be a table captain again this year and she hopes others will consider joining her. She says she wants to do everything possible to raise awareness about breast cancer, help women know about the services Francine’s Friends provides and get the screenings they need to stay as healthy as possible.

“It only takes 15 minutes, but it could save your life,” she says. “It’s not a huge time commitment and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Francine’s Friends does not only help out the uninsured and the underinsured, it helps out everyone and that’s what appeals to me.”

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