“I do have to warn you,” she said, laughing. “I am not a professional.”
That firefighter, Anthony “Bubba” Jackson, was one of 15 public safety officials in Piedmont who volunteered to have their heads shaved to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Johnson, though again battling cancer, was one of three local breast cancer survivors who were on hand to help give the first responders fresh buzz cuts.
The event was organized by Piedmont Rescue Squad EMT Shannon Hogue, who four years ago began selling breast cancer awareness shirts because she wanted to raise money to help survivors. Though not a survivor herself, this year she amplified her effort to educate the public about breast cancer by organizing the Tuesday event.
“We wanted to come up with something to show cancer patients we support them,” she said.
October is recognized each year as Breast Cancer Awareness Month throughout the United States. Corporations, organizations, survivors and other individuals, like Hogue, use the designation as an opportunity to help patients, survivors and to educate people about the illness.
People recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month in different ways. Some wear the signature pink ribbon, which is recognized as a symbol of awareness. NFL players show their support by wearing pink jerseys for a game in the month of October. And the Piedmont rescue squad, in addition to hosting the awareness event Tuesday, will wear neon pink golf shirts through the month for patients and survivors.
Rhonda Mendez, a spokeswoman for the American Cancer Society, said such acknowledgements are not made in vain. She said the existence of 2.9 million breast cancer survivors is evidence that awareness efforts are working.
Mendez said patients who detect cancerous breast lumps early have a 99 percent survival rate. Doctors still advise women to conduct monthly exams and to have annual mammograms after age 40, she added.
“Breast Cancer Awareness Month is really there to help education and bring more awareness to the disease,” she said. “Breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among all cancers in women, second only to skin cancers.”
Hogue also used the Tuesday event as a chance to present a $5,000 check to one of the other survivors, Venecia Butler, to use for her organization, the Venecia Foundation. Through the foundation, which has applied with the federal government to become a non-profit, Butler is working to support cancer patients in the county.
Butler provides the patients with gift bags with the types of items they’ll need, gas gift cards, chapstick, and lotion, among other items. She said she also wants to outfit each chemotherapy treatment center with DVD players and funny movies, so patients can be entertained.
On Saturday she will host a 5K run at 10 a.m. in Piedmont to raise money for her foundation.
Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.