Bowling for Boobies: How This Annual Event Has Helped Fight Against Breast Cancer
One might chuckle when presented with the title Bowling for Boobies. I did. But once I learned what this funny little title stood for, my laughter turned into real compassion. Edith Speed and her caring friends founded the annual charity event to aid women while they are dealing with this potentially deadly illness. Bowling for Boobies helps women endure while undergoing the trials and tribulations of breast cancer. Years ago, the very statement, "You have breast cancer," was cause for panic—cancer meant you were going to die. But today with early detection, the survival rate is 95 percent. Thanks to those who have given their time and support, women have a real fighting chance. What I find most interesting is that those zealous advocators for the disease are its survivors.
So here is where our story begins. Edith Speed saw her aunt and the younger of her two sisters die from breast cancer. It was obvious to her that she was next. Edith was vigilant about getting her annual mammograms. She gave herself breast exams well before the recommended age of 40. But one day three years ago, her X-ray came back abnormal, and her roller coaster ride began. Because Edith was no stranger to breast cancer, she had an inkling of what was ahead. She did her research, and once she received her diagnosis, she set out to change her luck. After firing her initial oncologist, she met with a number of doctors before deciding on her team.
I found the head of the breast center at Cedar Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. She sat with me as long as I needed, and she answered every question I had. She talked to me like a woman, and was very understanding about the things I was feeling. She was straight up with me about my choices, which included a lumpectomy, radiation, chemo, radical mastectomy, etc., and what each option offered regarding chances of recurrence and side effects.
What came next was debilitating. Edith's battle turned into a war with the mounting expenses that just were not covered by her insurance company. She witnessed her doctors' struggle to get the insurance companies to approve procedures in a timely manner, not to mention her own struggles of just getting them to pay for things she thought they were supposed to cover. But with the decision to have radical mastectomies and massive reconstructive surgeries, how could she cover all the costs?
I wanted to choose the best doctors that I could possibly get for myself, and get the best treatment, but that involved going out of my participating provider network for my insurance, and the costs were mounting really quickly. So my friends got together and staged the first Bowling for Boobies, and we raised $1,500.00 that went entirely to my medical bills. I just decided after all of my surgeries were finished and I was cancer-free, that I would keep this going. I wanted to keep giving back to my community. I want to raise money for other women who are in the same position I was in—not necessarily destitute women, but women like me who are self-sufficient and pay for their own insurance—but there are things that aren't going to be covered by the insurance company.
Edith is now the event chairperson for Bowling for Boobies, and the event is sponsored by the Soroptimist International Verdugos. Surprisingly, Edith's biggest champion was her best friend Jane Wiedlin from the Go-Gos, and now Bowling for Boobies and Jane go hand in hand. Jane Wiedlin's celebrity status has helped to bring awareness and additional funding to the charity.
I got involved because one of my best friends, Edith, had breast cancer a few years ago. And her friends put together Bowling for Boobies to help pay for her medical costs that weren't going to be covered by insurance. Ever since then, Edith has carried on with the event every year. And I have been helping every year to bring more awareness to get more money. It's a fun night for a really important cause. The other entity involved is the Soroptimist group, which is a club for businesswomen who raise money for various worthy causes. It's a non-profit group, so they can bring in the money and give all of it to a recipient. Every year they donate the money to a local woman who is battling breast cancer. Hardly ever will your insurance cover all of your costs when you're battling cancer.
Bowling for Boobies will be auctioning off some amazing gifts to help raise funds for this year's recipient. Here are some of the things that will be auctioned that night: a pink bowling ball and pin autographed by Jane herself; Felina Lingerie will create a bustier that Jane will wear first in the Bowling for Boobies' colors, pink and black. Coveted spots on Jane's bowling team have even been auctioned on e-bay, fetching $1100.00 from one excited fan, Rusty Perez.
There was a lot of competition to get on Jane's team—a lot of aggressive bidders! But I've been a huge fan of Jane's for 25 years, and I like Boobies. It was a good benefit, so I had to be on the team.
Some of the things that Bowling for Boobies has paid for are cosmetic reconstructive expenses, maids to help out breast cancer patients, taxi rides to and from treatment, adjunctive therapies for cancer such as acupuncture and herbalists—basically anything that your insurance company doesn't cover, related to breast cancer, and/or aiding in the recovery process.
We want to give support for anything that can ease your struggle with breast cancer, make your life easier and maybe less stressful.
I am a person who takes a lot of pride in taking care of myself and being self-sufficient. On one hand it was really difficult to reach out and ask other people for help, but it was also extremely gratifying when I did. Because if you just reach out a little bit, the amount of love and outpouring and help that people do give you back is just astounding. And I still get kind of choked up about it when I think about how many people really step forward to help. I like the idea of Bowling for Boobies because it's really fun, and you can be raising money and helping somebody at the same time. We give money to a local woman, or hopefully this year, two local women.
As a woman who has been through such a traumatic and life-threatening experience, what does Edith Speed say about her experience?
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was in that place where I didn't know what was going to happen next. I was in uncharted territory. You have to go forward and you have to do something, even though it's terrifying. You want to just put your head under the covers and hope when you wake up, everything's O. K., but of course that doesn't happen. With my experience with my family members, they died from it. I thought it was my turn and I was going to die, too. I've been extremely healthy all my life. I had never been in the hospital, never broken any bones, never even had my tonsils removed. So when I had that first lumpectomy surgery, I was lying in the hospital bed, it was freezing cold in the room, and none of my family could be with me. I had IVs going into my arm. I found myself thinking about my aunt who died from breast cancer who was a very devout Catholic, and then I found myself praying the Catholic prayers that I thought I had forgotten a long time ago because I don't practice anymore. It's really hard to describe that feeling—you're in a place completely unfamiliar to you and you feel like you're really alone. I felt like I was facing death, and I came through it.
I had the strength to choose a great medical team. But I had the foresight and determination to assemble the best team and figure out a way to assume the responsibility to pay for it, even if it meant I had to swallow my pride and ask for help.
Pride doesn't have much place in my life after this ordeal. I don't feel like I am so much about my ego or my body. These things I associate with pride. It was touching the people who came forward to help me. I have a new perspective on my life now, and every day is a gift. I no longer put important things off because if I don't do it now, it's not guaranteed later. I want to take the time and appreciate the great things I have in my life. I certainly appreciate the gift that life is. I do find myself taking more time to tell the people in my life that I care about them. I show them that I love them. I definitely want to reach out and help others, and now there is a special place in my heart for women dealing with breast cancer.
Edith has been cancer-free for two years, and she still fears that it could come back, because oftentimes, cancer does.
I feel a sense of victory, happiness, and elation that I have a great support network. I have a great husband. The high point was getting married because it was right after our engagement that I was diagnosed. I was terrified that I was going to be a chemotherapy, bald bride. And I didn't want to go through that. I got to have the wedding I wanted and two years later got to go on the honeymoon after I was healed and feeling good.
My lowest point was before the first surgery where I felt really alone. But going into my second surgery, the bilateral mastectomies, and because I had already been there before with the lumpectomies, I knew what to expect. I knew my doctor, and I knew I would wake up and be O.K..
What advice would you give women going through this?
Have a support system, like a friend or family member, and arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can get—we do have access to it.
Bowling for Boobies 2006 will be October 9, 2006, Monday night at Lucky Strike Lanes in Hollywood. It's a fun event. In addition to the prizes previously mentioned, there will be t-shirts and raffles. Visit www.bowlingforboobies.com, and you can donate money through paypal, or you can send money. Bowling for Boobies has two affiliate programs, too. "Feel Your Boobies" fashion line encourages young women to do their breast exams. Www.BowlingShirt.com donates proceeds from the purchase of their custom bowling shirts. There are a lot of ways to contribute all year, not just October.
Interview by Kaylene Peoples
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