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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
About 50 breast cancer survivors and their supporters pose for a portrait Saturday for Pink Out during the halftime of the IPFW women’s basketball game.

Breast cancer event celebrates hope, support

T. Gross
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Breast cancer survivors march into the Gates Center on Saturday for Pink Out. The event included free lunch and the IPFW women’s basketball game.

For every breast cancer survivor who attended, two or three people came to show support.

The seventh annual Pink Out event attracted about 200 people to IPFW on Saturday, including about 50 former and current cancer patients.

Roger Gross attended to honor his daughter, Tammy Gross, a 7 1/2 -year survivor.

“It’s a whole family thing,” he said of his 52-year-old daughter’s diagnosis.

For Tammy Gross, it’s also a hope thing.

“I love to see all the other survivors,” she said. “I think it’s important to show other people that cancer is survivable – that they can have 20-plus years of survival.”

Support and hope – those are exactly the two things organizer Kassie Sinclair wants people to feel at the Pink Out, which included a lunch, an IPFW women’s basketball game and a lot of a certain color.

Sinclair, general manager of Learfield Sports for IPFW athletics, handles marketing and sponsorships for the local university.

By inviting breast cancer survivors and family members to attend the lunch and ball game for free, the university is giving back to the community, she said. And by donating proceeds from T-shirt sales, game admissions and a raffle to the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, IPFW is supporting breast cancer research.

Last year’s donation from the Pink Out event was $3,300. This year’s total wasn’t immediately available.

The take might not be huge, but it’s combined with donations made to the Vera Bradley Foundation throughout the year from events including annual golf and tennis tournaments. Every little bit adds up.

The local foundation last year fulfilled a $20 million pledge made years earlier to the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and quickly pledged $15 million more.

The money goes to research into the genetic makeup of tumors and patients so that the most effective and least painful cancer drugs can be prescribed, said Catherine Hill, the foundation’s executive director.

Sue Uelk is among those who have received treatment from the Indianapolis cancer center.

The 69-year-old was first diagnosed with breast cancer 18 years ago. Uelk had a recurrence in 1999. Then cancer was found in her other breast in 2010.

“I’m doing well,” she said Saturday. “And I thank God for breast cancer research.”

Uelk participated in a clinical drug trial. The medication, which is now FDA-approved, targeted her specific type of cancer.

Although she continues to receive treatment, Uelk’s cancer has stopped spreading.

“I’m blessed, that’s what I am, blessed,” she said. “You look at life differently. You just do. This was God’s plan for my life. And I know that God’s plan is perfect.”

Mike Gronow, her friend and supporter, is won over.

“She is a remarkable lady,” he said. “The strength that she has is beyond.”

Gladys Moore, a nine-year survivor, attended the lunch with her niece and her home health aide.

The 80-year-old lost her mother to colon cancer, her father to prostate cancer and her husband and two brothers to lung cancer.

When Moore’s annual mammogram found cancer in both breasts, she decided to have a double mastectomy. The mother of five didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy, but she has warned her three daughters that they need to get regular mammograms.

Considering her family history of terminal cancer, Moore looks at the last nine years as a gift. And she isn’t wasting it.

Although she can’t remember exactly how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren she has, Moore knows where they live – Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis and Alabama. And she visits often.