Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Special Message from Val Skinner

Special Guest Blog Post from Val Skinner

I was inspired to start the Val Skinner Foundation and create LIFE (LPGA Pros In the Fight to Eradicate breast cancer) after watching my friend and fellow LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tour Golf Professional, Heather Farr, fight and eventually lose her battle against breast cancer.  Heather was a rising young star on the LPGA, she smiled wide and almost bounced when she walked down the fairway.  She had a dynamic and engaging way about her, she was only 5’3” and 115 lbs. but what a strong competitor!  When Heather learned, she had breast cancer at the age of 24, she needed every bit of her competitive strength to deal with the toughest competitor she had ever faced.  The thing that has motivated the work of the Foundation most, was learning that Heather had felt something earlier in her breast and when she checked with the doctor she was told it was “nothing to be concerned about because she was only 24 years old, it couldn’t be breast cancer”.  She was told to and to go finish her season and deal with it once off the road.  Heather was given bad advice and later found out she not only had breast cancer but she had an advanced and aggressive form.

Many of us on the tour where shocked this could happen to such a young, seemingly healthy woman, but even more troubled about the bad advice she received from her physician.  Heather fought her cancer with courage, determination and grace, but still she died four years later at 28 years old.  I decided to act on the anger and frustration I felt.  The experience made it clear to me that, young women and their health care providers needed more education and information about early healthy breast care practices.  I had a platform through my sport to raise money and awareness, so with Heather’s memory front of mind I focused on a younger generation getting proper education on the topic.  See the rest of the story at www.valskinnerfoundation.org

The goal of the Val Skinner Foundation has been to create programs to help educate our young generation about the importance of early breast health practices and that early detection saves lives.  We also focus efforts on helping this younger generation understand that learning how to be educated and proactive about health now, will serve them later in life.  We support clinical research and patient care through our partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey LIFE Center.

 

The Family Discussion Guide, I believe will prove to be a very valuable tool, but what I think about most often is that through Decoding Cancer lives WILL be saved and one day we may just have one of these students find a cure for cancer because they found passion for research through our Decoding Cancer platform!

 

Anyone that wants to support an issue or a cause just has to care and pay attention to start.  I found through the work I do there is nothing more important than investing heartfelt concern for topics and others, if you do a way to help with present itself.  If you can’t afford to give money then give time, if you don’t have a lot of free time then share what you have learned already from this Foundation’s work for our young generation and you will enlighten those you share information with.  It is as simple as starting a conversation, ask questions if you don’t understand and then do a little research and go back and share what you know with someone new.  Many great things in our world came out of someone starting a conversation.

I am delighted to help Decoding Cancer get to mainstream classrooms for teachers, parents and students the absolute benefactors of this innovative curriculum.  I am especially pleased that students can learn about careers in medicine, science or research in the detail the curriculum provides .  The Family Discussion Guide, I believe will prove to be a very valuable tool, but what I think about most often is that through Decoding Cancer lives WILL be saved and one day we may just have one of these students find a cure for cancer because they found passion for research through our Decoding Cancer platform!

When meeting someone dealing with breast cancer the first thing I make sure is I don’t say anything that would make them think I know how they feel.  I can only imagine how difficult days in treatment are or losing hair or being so sick you can’t eat; plus, all the difficult decisions they have to make as a result of having cancer.  I find the best way to be supportive first is to listen and to ask if there is anything you can do to make a task easier for them.  Cook them their favorite meal, watch a movie or watch the sunset.  Being there is often enough even if you sit quietly together, it reminds them they are not alone at a difficult time.  If you want to be more active and have the means to do so, participate in a fundraising event in their name or volunteer to help an event in your area that support the fight against breast cancer.

Val Skinner

Val Skinner is a former LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) champion and founder of The Val Skinner Foundation which, in partnership with Discovery Education, the LIFE Center at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Rutgers School of Public Health; developed the Decoding Cancer high school science curriculum.
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