Local Breast Cancer Survivors Dance for Others in Treatment

The Pink Fund's Dancing With The Survivors® hustles to the dance floor at 6 p.m. October 8 at Shriners Silver Garden Event Center in Southfield (24350 Southfield Road, Southfield, MI 48073).

Dancing With The Survivors® - in its fourth year - celebrates breast cancer survivors who thrive in their recovery and make a difference in the lives of other cancer patients. Seven courageous women from southeast Michigan will perform ballroom style dances with their daughters, sons, husbands and dance professionals from Fred Astaire Dance Studio, Bloomfield Hills. They'll share inspiring stories of their breast cancer journeys while raising money for The Pink Fund's mission: providing non-medical financial assistance to breast cancer patients in active treatment.

"A diagnosis of breast cancer is emotionally and physically devastating, but many don't realize it can also be financially devastating," says Molly MacDonald, breast cancer survivor, founder and CEO The Pink Fund, which is based in Bloomfield Hills. "While fighting for their lives, many breast cancer patients in active treatment lose their incomes. Unable to work, patients often face incredible financial losses. Some may even stop treatment and return to work in order to pay basic bills. Only recently has a term 'financial toxicity' been coined for this unfortunate predicament."

MacDonald Dealt firsthand with the pain, frustration, stress and humiliation of financial toxicity. In 2005, she was between jobs, supporting her five children, caring for her aging mother, and paying $1,200 per month for COBRA health insurance when she was diagnosed. Two surgeries and six weeks of daily radiation cured her cancer but derailed her career and ruined her finances. Her home went into foreclosure; her family relied on a local food bank for sustenance. There were no financial resources available. Frustrated and broke, the ruins of her personal tragedy gave life to The Pink Fund, an organization that was determined not to allow others to encounter the same fate and help breast cancer patients cover critical non-medical bills during treatment.

With help from the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills, which has donated eight private dance lessons to each breast cancer survivor participating in the event, all six survivors will support The Pink Fund's mission by showcasing the ballroom dances they've been practicing all summer. Additionally, in line with The Pink Fund's "money raised here stays here" policy, funds raised at the local event will be restricted for breast cancer patients seeking financial assistance in Michigan. Dancing in this year's event are:

1. AHNAMARIA CAREY: Diagnosed with stage one high-risk subtype breast cancer on August 19, 2015, she is dancing because, "The Pink Fund helps patients to focus on what is most important; getting better." She is a Pink Fund recipient.

2. Jennifer MeyerS: Diagnosed in January 2006 with High Grade Invasive Ductal Carcinoma - Stage 2 (with several lymph nodes showing extensive metastatic adenocarcinoma), she underwent surgeries, extensive chemotherapy, and radiation. Jennifer is dancing because she says, "I was one of the lucky ones. I had a solid support system; a great team of doctors, a loving family, and friends who helped me through each day."

3. RACHEL EKIZIAN: After she found a lump in her breast and was told at each stage of diagnostics not to worry because she was young, part Asian and healthy, the mother of two small children was finally diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000 and underwent a mastectomy. Cancer free for 11 years she began experiencing back pain that led to several misdiagnosis and physical therapy for a back injury. A new doctor suggested a STAT CT and X-rays. The X-rays came back normal, but later that night she got a phone call that would, again, change her life: "I hate to have to tell you, but the CT scans reveal that your breast cancer has spread to your bones." Her breast cancer had returned with a vengeance eating holes in her bones from head to toe. Stephanie is what's called a "Forever Fighter" because there is currently no cure for her stage of cancer. "I am dancing for The Pink Fund with my son, Tyler, because I believe wholeheartedly in the good that The Pink Fund does right here, right now."

4. STEPHANIE QUILLICO: Stephanie ll, 23, is the daughter of Survivor Michelle who with her husband Walter have been long time donors to The Pink Fund. Stephanie who majored in dance, but not ballroom, is dancing in honor of her mother who is unable to dance because of a broken ankle. "My Mom was only 42 when she was diagnosed and I was about to go to high school, I remember thinking, will she be there for my high school graduation?" At the time of her mother's diagnosis, the family was facing a business crisis. "On the inside, I was panicking, but I knew I had to carry on as normal as possible for my parent's sake and my own."

5 & 6: SUSANNE & STEPHANIE IACOBELLI: In 2005, Susanne's daughter Stephanie was just 12 years old, and had recently lost her Aunt Lee to breast cancer, and her grandmother to Ovarian cancer. That year, on Susanne's 45th birthday, she entered Karmanos Breast Cancer Center at 10 a.m. for a mammogram, which lead to a breast ultrasound, and then a breast biopsy. By 7 p.m., she was sent home, dreading her test results. A mastectomy showed she had 2B, Invasive Adenocarcinoma with Ductal and Lobular features, plus 4 out of 8 lymph nodes, and 1 sentinel lymph node were infected. The mother and daughter pair are lifelong dancers and feel blessed they were fortunate to have a strong support system in place during Susanne's battle with cancer. Mom says dancing helped kept her daughter focused and strong while watching her fight the ravishes of cancer treatment. Now eight years cancer free: "I am dancing with my daughter for the Pink Fund to help support those women who need financial help during this time to help support their families during treatment," Susanne says. They are dancing in a mother-daughter duo with the Fred Astaire pros.

7. CAROL ZIECIK: Continuing her new appreciation for dance since performing at last year's event, Survivor Carol Ziecik her husband Mike will be performing the dances they performed at a competition in August. Carol and her sister Laura, who performed as a duo with the Fred Astaire dancers in 2015, have been so moved by participating in the event, they are now the presenting sponsors in Detroit.

MacDonald says, "Treatment is just the start of the disease and women suffer from effects that can linger for years, including loss of intimacy and body image issues. Dancing can play an important role in the life of a survivors, helping them and their partners reclaim some intimacy, while freeing their minds from health concerns."

Evan Mountain, who owns the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills with his wife, Lada, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, says, "Research has shown dance helps cancer survivors feel good about themselves. The simple act of learning a dance move can help a person feel more graceful and attractive. Dance allows survivors to forget about cancer and focus on other aspects of their lives."

Tickets to Dancing With The Survivors®, $150, include the ballroom dance showcase, entertainment, small plates and cocktails. Purchase at www.crowdrise.com/Southfield or by calling (248) 229-4668. For more information on The Pink Fund, please visitwww.ThePinkFund.org.

ABOUT Fred Astaire DANCE STUDIO - BLOOMFIELD HILLS

Fred Astaire Dance Studio of Bloomfield Hills is the largest ballroom dance studio in the state of Michigan. Opened in 2006 by Lada and Evan Mountain, the studio is part of a nationwide franchise that requires daily training for its teachers, who are dedicated to teaching dance full-time. The studio's mission is to enrich lives by building confidence, connection and community through ballroom dance. Learn more at www.ll.com.

ABOUT DANCING WITH THE SURVIVORS®

Dancing With The Survivors® is an evening to celebrate a nationwide community of breast cancer survivors who thrive in their recovery, and make a difference in the lives of other cancer patients. Additional 2015 events will take place in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.

ABOUT THE PINK FUND

The Pink Fund is a 501(c)(3) public charity that provides financial support, which helps meet basic needs, decreases stress levels and allows breast cancer patients to focus on healing while improving survivorship outcomes. The 90-day grant program covers non-medical cost-of-living expenses, such as health insurance premiums, housing, transportation and utilities. Payments are made to their creditors. For more information, visit www.thepinkfund.org.

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