Group picks up screening costs

Published 12:46 am Monday, September 26, 2011

EMILY LANE | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Dora Hawkins, center, chats with friends Thelma Newsome, left, and Carol King over tea and finger sandwiches at Sunday’s event, “Hats and Gloves with Tea on the Mississippi,” which raised money to fund breast cancer screenings for women who could not otherwise afford a mammogram.

NATCHEZ — Women with heads covered in fabulous hats and arms covered in fancy gloves sipped tea at the Grand Hotel Sunday to help less fortunate women than them take care of their most basic need — their health.

The tea, which featured entertainment from the Trinity Episcopal Day School dance team and a skit by some budding young actors draped in their parents clothes to demonstrate “Please find a cure for breast cancer before these clothes fit me,” aimed to raise money to help disadvantaged women pay for breast cancer screenings.

Breast cancer survivor Joyce Washington Ivery is the founder of the Edna B. and Joyce Fay Washington Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. that hosted the event in cooperation with Natchez Regional Medical Center.

Email newsletter signup

Ivery, who has been in remission for 22 years after undergoing a radical mastectomy, said when she was diagnosed in 1989, women, especially in the African American community, didn’t talk as openly about having breast cancer like they do today.

“(People) never said the word ‘cancer’,” Ivery said.

She said she had a cousin that suspected she might have breast cancer but waited too long to get a screening because she was scared. When her cousin finally got screened, it was too late.

“We need to be aware of (breast health) and let women know that (breast cancer) is not a death sentence,” Ivery said.

Ivery, a Hurricane Katrina transplant, started her foundation in 1993 in New Orleans, five years after she had been in remission.

The foundation’s main purpose is to help women who underwent mastectomies obtain prosthesis that would otherwise be unable to afford them; the goal was made possible in New Orleans by partnering with a drug store.

The foundation is named after her mother, Ivery said, because of the support her mother showed her during her cancer battle. Ivery said she still meets with the foundation board once a month in New Orleans.

The goal of Sunday’s event in Natchez called “Hats and Gloves with Tea on the Mississippi,” was to help women without insurance or economic means afford mammograms.

The event sold tickets for $25 and included a silent auction for items donated by 24 local merchants.

NRMC public relations director Kay Ketchings said Ivery is also a volunteer member of the NRMC Pink Ladies. Ketchings said Ivery approached her with the idea and suggested foundation could start off in Natchez by providing the free screenings to women at the Guardian Shelter.

“I’m sure their own health is the last thing on their minds,” Ketchings said of the women at the Guardian Shelter, which caters to victims of domestic abuse.

Ketchings said Ivery is a great contributor to the Pink Ladies.

“(Ivery) is just one of those soft-spoken, genuinely kind, caring kind of people that wants to make a difference, Ketchings said.

Ivery said everyone knows someone whose life has been affected by breast cancer. And women who are poor or have been laid off and have no insurance should have a chance to fight breast cancer by early detection.

“When you have to make a choice of feeding yourself or your family or going to the doctor —many people (at the benefit) don’t have to make that choice, (but some) do,” Ivery said.

Ivery said the second-annual event went well, although she expected a bigger turnout.

But Ivery is hopeful the generous participation of a number of partners this year will help make next year’s event even better.