Buying that first bra is always traumatic. The purchase occurs during an embarrassing age; people are always using the creepiest of phrases like "developing" and "becoming a woman." You have to go with your mom and she may see you undress and that's the last thing you want. You're just becoming accustomed to this body and you don't necessarily want someone to share the experience. It's especially jarring if you feel you suffer from the Goldilocks syndrome - your pair is too big or too small, never just right.
The coming of breasts coincides with the time girls become interested in fashion. We discover what is fashionable and what we can carry in terms of fashion -- if we can wear those tops with built-in bras or go braless. We can spend hundreds of dollars on supporting our breasts with the right bras for every occasion -- strapless bras, ones that convert for a variety of necklines, smooth ones for under t-shirts and lacy ones meant to wear under nothing.
We do a lot for our boobs in the name of fashion and sex appeal, but eventually they become more to us. It's about how our breasts make us feel. Today, however, some young women must deal with an issue far exceeding just acceptance.
Breast cancer occurs in one out of every eight women. A woman is diagnosed every two minutes. The statistics are frightening. It affects thousands of other men and women who act as supportive friends and families to those women. But the statistics can also provide hope. If the cancer is found early, the survival rate is 96 percent.
It's entirely about awareness, which is why October has become breast cancer awareness month. Many companies will begin rolling out pink products and many organizations will begin orchestrating national campaigns for awareness and fundraising for cures, support and whatever needs to be done to eradicate and educate about the disease.
Called to Action
Breast Impressions will host its "Beauty Beyond Breast Cancer" gala on October 3 at the Tulsa Home Builder's Association. The event celebrates local breast cancer survivors and raises money exclusively for Tulsa Project Women. Attendees can walk the pink carpet, purchase locally crafted fashions and be the chicest of all with the philanthropy that helps local women.
This year's event is the second annual Breast Impressions gala. Breast Impressions was the brainchild of Judi Grove, who had her own breast cancer scare in January 2007.
As she waited for her diagnosis, she discovered an online organization that raised breast cancer awareness by creating plaster casts of women's busts. Wanting to do this for herself as a remembrance should she need a mastectomy, she contacted Nancy Coryell whose area business sold plaster casts to pregnant women. Together, they created Breast Impressions, with the goal to raise awareness for those 18 and older into properly checking their breast for prevention and inspiring those going through breast cancer with breast casting.
While Grove's tests showed she did not have breast cancer, she did make the plaster cast of her breasts. She painted the cast red and allowed an artist friend to decorate it in mosaic stained glass.
This creation was the foundation of Breast Impressions. In the last 18 months, the organization has plastered 180 women's and three men's breasts as part of its quest for awareness. The three men who have participated in the breast casting represent the small number of men who can also be diagnosed with breast cancer -- 1,600 diagnosed annually with a frightening one-fourth of those diagnosed dying from the disease. Men whose female relatives have a history of the disease should also be proactive to the susceptibility to the disease.
Casting Out Awareness
In addition to helping raise awareness to men with the castings, Breast Impressions has donated more than 100 breast-casting kits to women recently diagnosed with breast cancer around the world.
The castings are also one of the highlights of "Beauty Beyond Breast Cancer." Fourteen local breast cancer survivors had their breasts cast in plaster and Grove used Breast Impressions' MySpace as a network for local Oklahoma artists. Together, the meaningful pieces of art will be auctioned off at the gala.
The gala's events include hors d'oeuvres by Escargot's, a wine and beer donation bar, live music from Mid Life Crisis Band and the two auctions. The live auction, emceed by Jay Litchfield -- who has raised over a million dollars for various charities -- is for the casts. The designs vary from casts with animal prints to a red heart intertwined with the famous pink ribbon to a sunset over water to an antique newsprint cast. The silent auction features more than 50 items (with some bids beginning at just $5), including photography, gift baskets, jewelry, paintings and fashions by local artists. The most important aspect to the auction is that 100 percent of the auction proceeds are donated to Tulsa Project Woman.
Tulsa Project Woman "is a regional, comprehensive program providing breast health education, no cost mammography, diagnostic procedures and surgical services for women with no health insurance and limited financial resources. TPW is a collaborative effort linking multiple Tulsa-area breast health care institutions to women, who because of financial hardship, often delay seeking medical attention." Tulsa Project Woman's imprint on women in Oklahoma is remarkable. In 2007, TPW helped 1,689 Oklahomans, 37 of whom the assistance helped diagnose their breast cancer. Tulsa Project Woman can rightfully boast that "since its beginning in 1998, the program has provided breast health care for more than 14,222 women and men and diagnosed 325 cases of breast cancer." To find out more information about this program, you can visit www.tulsaprojectwoman.com.
Last year's Breast Impressions event raised more than $7,500, all of which was donated to Tulsa Project Woman. Grove knows that her organization isn't as large as the national breast cancer awareness causes, but every little bit counts; as she puts it, "we do what we can do and we do what we say we'll do." And she does it to celebrate survivors. "The most beautiful women I've ever seen weren't on a runway -- they're breast cancer survivors," Grove said.
Tickets for the Breast Impressions' "Beauty Beyond Breast Cancer" gala are $30 for a single ticket, $50 for a couple and are on sale until September 20. They can be purchased by telephone at 691-3874 or the company's web site, www.breastimpressions.com. The web site also features images of all 14 casts being auctioned, as well as the fashions and art pieces included in the silent auction.
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