ABILENE Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – After a year off due to the pandemic, Hendrick Health was able to hold their annual “Bunco for Breast Cancer” once again on Tuesday.
This year they surpassed their $70,000 goal before the event even began, with the money going to their hope fund, which provides free access to mammogram testing for men and women who can’t afford it.
Hendrick Community Initiatives Coordinator Elyse Lewis says the fund was set up in 2001, when officials noticed a concerning trend of men and women being admitted with late-stage breast cancer. They concluded that many of them were skipping testing that could have caught the disease earlier.
“The community need is that there were men and women who were being diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer and that is because there was a barrier to them receiving care,” says Lewis.
That barrier was equal parts lack of awareness in the community and lack of funds for those who could not afford frequent testing.
Nita Slaton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999, and she says even though she caught it early thanks to her regular mammogram, it was a life-altering ordeal.
“It was scary, very scary. My husband and I sat and cried because no one in my family had cancer of any kind, and here I suddenly had it,” Slaton said.
She has been coming to the Bunco tournament for many years now, and hopes her story will encourage others to test early and often.
“Because there’s no age set that you’re going to have it,” says Slaton.
Kaye Hembree was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. She was able to survive that difficult time and says that bunco became an annual tradition that she looks forward to.
“This is probably the 15th or 16th year I’ve played bunco,” Hembree says. “It’s a part of my life now, this will be something I have for the rest of my life.”
While the costume contest, raffle, and games are a fun distraction, Nita says there is no gift more precious than seeing fellow survivors come back year after year.
“They’re doing wonderful. They’re living their life, and that’s wonderful,” Slaton said.
The Hendrick Hope fund is available to men and women in need of breast cancer testing that they may not be able to afford.
More information can be found on the Hendrick website, or by calling 325-670-4673 (HOPE).