Roberts to speak at fundraiser

Published 12:09 am Monday, August 27, 2007

JACKSON (AP) — ‘‘Good Morning America’’ co-host Robin Roberts agreed in June to speak at a fund raiser for an organization which provides wigs to women battling cancer.

‘‘I had no idea at the time that I would a short time later be diagnosed with breast cancer myself,’’ Roberts told The Associated Press in a phone interview. ‘‘I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.’’

Roberts, who grew up in Pass Christian, Miss., will be returning to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Wednesday, the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. She is scheduled to speak at an event for The Pink Heart Funds, a nonprofit organization that provides wigs and breast prostheses to women suffering from breast cancer who have little or no funds.

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‘‘I kind of looked at the heavens and said ’did you know something up there that I didn’t know that led me to say ’yes’ to this?’’’ she said.

Roberts, who announced to GMA viewers on July 31 that she had been diagnosed with the disease, said she will ‘‘speak from the heart.’’ She did say she would discuss how she first found the cancer during a self breast exam. An ultra sound, not a mammogram, later found the tumor, she added. The former college basketball star had no family history of breast cancer and said she ate right.

‘‘It happens. I am hoping to just make people more aware,’’ she said.

Roberts, 46, underwent surgery on Aug. 3 and returned to the ‘‘Good Morning America’’ just 10 days later.

‘‘My mother was fussing at me for coming back in 10 days, but I wanted to get back as quickly as possible,’’ Roberts said.

Roberts said her prognosis is ‘‘quite good.’’ She is currently getting opinions from several doctors and anticipates her additional treatment, which may mean chemotherapy, will begin in the next 3 to 4 weeks.

Roberts would discuss specifics her further treatment, saying she wants to wait until things are certain.

Plans for the Aug. 29 fund raiser Roberts is speaking at began in June, after a Gulf Coast philanthropist who wishes to remain anonymous contacted the group about having a fund raiser for the organization.

‘‘We wanted that date because this is a feel good story to rise up out of Katrina that has nothing to do with the storm,’’ said Michele Hirata, president of The Pink Heart Funds.

JoAn Niceley founded The Pink Heart Funds after seeing cancer patients who lost everything including their wigs during the storm. A hairdresser and wig specialist, Niceley started using her own money to buy them wigs.

‘‘Losing your hair is the most devastating part,’’ said Niceley, a breast cancer survivor who has been cancer free for five years.

Soon, Niceley added a little pink heart box to her hairstyling station and invited people to donate money for the wigs for those unable to buy them.

‘‘They had to spend money on a new home and furniture and really not on themselves because they needed a roof over their heads,’’ Hirata said.

The organization’s fund raising efforts soon grew with Niceley’s cookbook ‘‘Appetite For Living — Pink Ribbon Recipes.’’ The book sold 2,800 copies in its first four months, Niceley said.

In May the group’s first big fundraiser, a festival featuring music and barbecue, netted $6,000.

The organization has also started the Pony Tail Club, which collects hair at least 6 inches long from volunteers to make into wigs for children without insurance who are going through any type of hair loss illness, including cancer.

Hirata, who lost her mother to breast cancer, has created special Chemo Caps for patients suffering the effects of cancer treatment. The hats are made from T-shirts and are well ventilated to prevent the head from sweating. They also provide a conservation piece for people who are losing their hair from chemotherapy, she said.

‘‘People don’t come up to them and say ’I’m sorry you have cancer,’’’ Hirata said. ‘‘Now they ask where they got that hat.’’

Roberts and her mother both own the Chemo Caps.

‘‘I may get some use out of it now,’’ Roberts said.


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