What happens when your sickness graduates from being a mere ‘boo-boo?’ There are various medical centers and organizations that offer treatment for those affected by life-altering diseases, but sometimes a trip to the doc doesn’t solve everything.
When Ann Peters founded the Pink Ribbon Society 15 years ago, she had a goal in mind: to provide what insurance companies wouldn’t. “Well, tomorrow I will celebrate 39 years as a breast cancer survivor. When I was diagnosed, I was diagnosed as terminal for a long time, I just wanted to try to figure out a way to kind of pay it forward. I know what I went through, I knew that women who are going through treatment needed a lot of things that most insurance companies didn’t provide for. [For example] there are no insurance companies that will pay for a wig,” Peters said. “So far, we have probably underwritten probably about $80,000 worth of wigs. A woman will get a prescription from her doctor, and she’ll go to one of the local places that sell wigs and then she has to pay for it. Basically, they’re supposed to pay for it, then they send me the receipt and I pay them back,” Peters said.
While there are many organizations geared toward finding the cure for cancer, the PRS is a non-profit organization that donates to these organizations, but PRS keeps their focus on the individual.
“I’m very grateful for organizations who raise money for research and God I hope in my lifetime that there is a cure for breast cancer. But once you’ve been diagnosed at this point you need a completely different set of things,” Peters said. “I wanted to make sure that our organization would be able to accommodate women during their difficult time; pay for their wig and whatever else they need. There are so many women today, especially single moms who don’t have insurance. So our organization pays for screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds I mean there’s not much that we won’t cover to try to help a woman avoid getting cancer.”
As for exposure, the PRS holds a major event annually to raise donations to help men and women affected by breast cancer in neighboring counties.
“We just try to do what we can. We hold one major fundraiser a year, and that is what keeps us going. We’re very successful at it. The first year we held the event would be 15 years ago and we had about 225 people who were in attendance, last year we had over 800. This year [is] actually the first year we’re holding a second event- the first time we’ve ever done this. But we’re actually holding a style show,” Peters said.
The PRS has not only contributed to the amenities insurance companies won’t provide, but to the comfort that is necessary to life-altering illnesses.
“Having gone through chemo, I know how difficult it can be to sit in a chair and have a flow drip. My daughter is an oncology nurse, and I know what she sees every day. People will sit sometimes two, three, four, five, six hours to have a drip to get their treatment. During this period of time, they get cold. So a few years back we started a program called Bundles of Hope,” Peters said. “We have these really nice pink, reusable bags, cloth type bags. We have really nice, soft blankets that we put in there and then we put some literature in there and tons of different things. These are distributed to oncology offices throughout the four-county area, and then when a woman comes in to start her first treatment they give her one of these bags and she’s able to take that back and forth.”
As for expansion plans, Peters hopes to get the youth more involved with her organization.
“Well I like the idea of young people getting involved and I would like to try to find a project for the young people in our community to participate in with us so that we can develop a junior volunteer group of people who can do things that some of us can’t do. We keep saying 2016 is a year of growth. We want to grow the services we provide, we want to be able to grow a location and I would really love to grow a volunteer group of young women,” Peters said. “I would love to go into the high schools, at the senior level and do a mother-daughter program. Making mothers and daughters, especially the daughters aware of how important it is for them to know your body, to stay healthy, to understand the importance of awareness and preventative treatments and tests.”