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NBCF partners with GAP

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National Breast Cancer Foundation Pledges Support to SINF Project

The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (NBCF) dedicated $100,000 over two years to fund one Sister Institution Network Fund project in the area of breast cancer research. The story of Janelle Hail, founder and CEO of NBCF, and her path to engaging with MD Anderson and GAP is a series of fortunate and unfortunate events.

At 34, with three small children at home, Janelle Hail found out she had breast cancer. She had no family history of cancer. She did not smoke or drink. She was, by all measures, healthy. During a breast self-exam, however, a skill acquired in a health class in Junior High, Hail found a lump. At first she thought it might go away, but within a couple of weeks she was in her doctor's office beginning the disconcerting process of testing, which ultimately determined the lump was cancer. It was 1980 and the world is all the better for Hail's misfortune.

“This was at a time when there was no Internet, no easy way to try to find answers for yourself. You really just had to believe what your doctor told you,” says Hail.

Hail’s doctor suggested a mastectomy. Later, Hail would learn that a lumpectomy would have been an option for her, but the procedure was not yet widely used and most doctors erred on the more aggressive side of treatment. Although Hail has been disease-free ever since, the experience instilled in her the need for women to be part of their own decision-making process. Access to information and education is important not only for women to understand their disease, but to feel like they are a participant in their own destinies.

Following her surgery, Hail set about volunteering in hospitals in order to learn how the medical world functioned.Janelle Hail

“It was at this time I realized what a need there was for women who could not afford mammograms to have access to good health care,” explains Hail.

And so, 11 years after her initial confrontation with cancer, Hail started the National Breast Cancer Foundation, whose mission is to provide mammograms to women who would not otherwise have access to the preventive testing, and through education to support women in their journey with breast cancer. The NBCF’s mission has not wavered in the past 20 years.

“The first thing I did was to send out letters to over 300 Fortune 500 companies asking for support,” Hail recalls. “Of course, I was rejected by all of them, but years later they became my greatest supporters.”

Support did eventually come from the Beeville Foundation in Beeville, TX, a city of about 15,000 people northwest of Corpus Christi, TX. NBCF worked with the Foundation to provide free mammograms. Currently, NBCF’s National Mammography Program provides grants for free mammograms to 89 hospitals in 48 states across the Union.

In addition to mammograms, NBCF recognized research as a conduit to improving women’s health care and has consistently dedicated a portion of its funds to support research efforts. For approximately the past six years, a portion of that research support has found its way to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“It started with a meeting with the CFO at MD Anderson. We gave him a small check for $10,000, but told him our gifts would grow,” says Hail.

In the intervening years, the gifts have grown to over a million dollars. It was not until Hail was on a visit to Paris, however, that she learned about MD Anderson’s Global Academic Programs. Last summer, Hail was at the Institut Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France. Through IGR, Hail had been introduced to the Worldwide Innovative Networking in personalized cancer medicine (WIN) and had been invited to be part of the WIN Directorate. GAP vice president Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., also serves on the Directorate and through WIN he and Hail became acquainted with each other. Hail appreciated GAP’s global mission and the education and outreach Bogler was trying to foster.

Hail also has global aspirations and is in the process of translating NBCF’s educational program “Beyond the Shock” into multiple languages so women around the world can begin to have the educational support to deal with a breast cancer diagnosis. She never loses focus on the reason she pushes NBCF and works to make connections, such as those with GAP and MD Anderson.

“This work is the result of my being a breast cancer survivor. We are here to help women by partnering with wonderful hospitals like MD Anderson in order to provide women the services and support that will allow them to also be breast cancer survivors.”

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center