CEDAR GROVE, NJ — The co-anchor for ABC News’ 20/20 had recently turned 40 when she was asked to take a mammogram for a television segment.
Amy Robach had every intention of turning down the story, but five years later Robach is thankful she did take the cancer screening.
Speaking to about 400 people at the Susan G. Komen North Jersey affiliate’s Pink Tie Party on Friday, Robach discussed her survival, something that a conversation with a colleague may have well played a significant role in.
“I had two malignant tumors. I had a positive lymph node. And I had no idea,” said Robach, recounting the talk. “So thank God she convinced me to have that mammogram, to take advantage of this potentially life-saving test.”
In the years that followed that diagnosis, Robach said, she endured surgery and chemotherapy treatments that saved her life. But it was hearing from cancer survivors that helped her to pull herself out of the devastating loneliness and isolation that comes with the diagnosis, she said.
“I so badly needed to hear from survivors and not just survivors but ‘thrivers,’” said Robach, who later wrote a book about her experience. “Hearing their voices on the other end of the phone and knowing that they had gotten through a year of hell and recurrences and battling second rounds of cancer, knowing that they were there smiling, succeeding, thriving, it gave me hope. And when you are at rock bottom scared out of your mind, hope is the only thing that gets you through.”
Carrie Duane Basham, a cancer survivor and volunteer for Komen, was among those at the dinner. Duane Basham, 46, underwent a double mastectomy following her breast cancer diagnosis at age 41. Her journey has not been as public as Robach’s, but like the TV journalist, she too has made it her mission to help fellow survivors.
“I didn’t have a survivor to talk to when I was diagnosed,” said Duane Basham, a resident of Mount Arlington, in Morris County. “I didn’t have someone to say ‘Hey, Carrie this is how this is and this is how that is.’ My doctors were great and my family was great, so now I feel like I want to be that person to reach out to other survivors. It makes me vulnerable, but it’s worth it if it helps them through their journey.”
The Pink Tie Party, a fundraising event that helps Komen to raise funds for research that helps to prevent and cure breast cancer in both women and men, honored Steven Bitterman, principal of the architectural firm Gensler, in Morristown; Summit Medical Group with locations throughout North Jersey; and the Short Hills-based data firm Dun & Bradstreet at the gala held in Cedar Grove.
Sponsors included TAPinto, RWJ Barnabas Health, Summit Medical Group and Dun & Bradstreet.
“Hope starts with every single one of us, but it also starts at Komen North Jersey and the thousands of phone calls we get every month from people who say ‘I have a lump. I don’t have insurance,’” said Komen North Jersey Executive Director Kelly E. Nagle, speaking at the fundraiser. “We help them get access to screenings and diagnostic tests.”
Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh