Driven to Cure license plates are helping to support breast cancer research in Kansas
September 29, 2014
By Laura Long
Every October pink ribbons start to appear on everything from yogurt containers to semi-trucks. The bright splash of pink is a show of support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But the pink ribbon seen on many Kansas license plates does more than look perky. Every time a Kansas driver orders the Driven to Cure plate they are funding breast cancer research across the state.
"Driven to Cure donations directly support breast cancer research and services at hospitals and cancer centers in every corner of Kansas," explains Hope Krebill, executive director of the Midwest Cancer Alliance (MCA), a membership-based organization that links The University of Kansas Cancer Center research and services with member hospitals, medical professionals and their patients so that the latest cancer research and care can be found close to home.
"Driven to Cure funds have helped make it possible for us to participate in a Midwest Cancer Alliance breast cancer trial that is seeing positive results for some patients," says Hays Medical Center oncologist, Anne O'Dea, M.D. "We want to offer cancer patients in Hays every possible option that could improve outcomes."
Every year close to 2,000 Kansans are diagnosed with breast cancer and nearly 400 die from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is also the most common form of cancer in women across the state.
"MCA member hospitals and cancer centers in Kansas City, Hays, Salina, Pittsburg, Great Bend, Garden City, Topeka, Emporia, Lawrence and Olathe have greater access to breast cancer trials and education thanks, in part, to Driven to Cure funds," says Gary Doolittle, M.D., oncologist and medical director for the MCA.
As Melanie Leepers, R.N., points out, having greater access to trials and education is important to family members as well as patients. Leepers is a clinical research nurse at Tammy Walker Cancer Center which is part of Salina Regional Medical Center, another member of MCA.
Brenda Chappell of Pittsburg, Kan., bought her Driven to Cure plate in honor of a sister who died of breast cancer.
"My sister died from breast cancer and my daughter, my niece, my brother and I carry the BRCA gene," Chappell explains. "I want to make sure there is ongoing research to find a cure so that more of my loved ones do not succumb to this insidious disease."
"There's no question that close family members are deeply involved in advocating for family members with cancer and helping them research the best care options," says Leepers.
For Steve Bell of Lenexa, Kan., the Driven to Cure plate on his Jeep Wrangler symbolizes both support and celebration. Bell purchased the Driven to Cure plate as a surprise after his wife, Rhonda, a nurse, learned her breast cancer was in remission.
"Rhonda is cancer free now but, as a cancer survivor and a registered nurse, this cause is very near and dear to both of us," says Bell.
St. Rose Ambulatory & Surgery Center in Great Bend is another member of the MCA network that utilizes breast cancer trials and educational programs supported by Driven to Cure. Mark Mingenback, executive director at St. Rose, has noticed that during and after treatment a large number of patients want to get give back.
"We've had former patients donate very expensive equipment and others who volunteer to share their stories in order to help others going through treatment," says Mingenback. "Every effort helps make a difference."
"I'm a cancer survivor and I learned about the Driven to Cure plates in my oncologist's office," says Donna Gowing of Lecompton, Kan. "I don't have a lot of money but this gives me chance to help out in a small way."
Even Kansas businesses, like the Overland Park bakery 3 Women and an Oven are ordering the plates. Bakery co-owner Jayne Torline says the bakery decided to purchase the plates for their trucks because they wanted to do something to help the many customers they see who are cancer survivors.
"So many wonderful stories of cancer survival have been shared at our bakery's front counter as clients purchase Pink Champagne Cakes to celebrate," says Torline. "The Driven to Cure plates are one way to let customers know we care."