The 2016 Women Together keynote speaker Anita Woodley promises laughter will be a part of her performance. But between laughs, she hopes women will take home the message that early detection is key and that cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence.
"Cancer is not something that just goes away," Woodley said. Woodley's mother died from breast cancer, and didn't seek treatment for it until it was too late. "You can't be so busy that you aren't just going to deal with it - it will deal with you."
Women Together, which has the purpose of raising money for a new Cancer Patient Services program offered through RHI Legacy Foundation, will be held Saturday, Feb. 20, from 9:30 a.m. until noon at the Performing Arts and Conference Center at Isothermal Community College. Proceeds will be used for services such as mammograms for uninsured women and financial assistance for patients who experience financial crisis as a result of their treatment and recovery and to expand cancer screening, prevention and education programs for Rutherford County.
Jill Miracle, executive director for RHI Legacy Foundation, stated, "Every penny that we raise from Women Together stays here at home. Rutherford County has excellent medical services for cancer patients. However, existing screening and education cancer services are not adequate to respond to our area's needs and there is no collaborative effort to meet financial needs for local patients. Our new Cancer Patient Services initiative fills that critical void."
Woodley, an award-winning journalist and playwright, chronicled her mother's journey, and from that was born a stage production which brings awareness to the disease and provides hope for those who are going through treatment for it.
"'Don't Wait Until It's Too Late' brings characters from one of my other shows and give an update as to how people survive with breast cancer," Woodley explained. "It opened up to give a full picture, and not just my mom's story of 'this is what happened to me' and we buried her. There's so much more to it."
The performance will provide a perspective of breast cancer from varying view points. At the end, a documentary will be shown that features Woodley's mother's cancer experiences. Woodley made the film as a journalism student.
"My background in journalism helps, because it allows me to take in a lot of information - stuff that will put you to sleep or that you will ignore on a brochure - and put it back out with laughter, humor and in a common language that all walks of life can understand," Woodley said.
The performance at Women Together, as well as others she has done, fulfills a promise Woodley made to her mother before her death.
"I'm performing her show, and I told her that one day I was going to tell people about it."
"Don't Wait Until It's Too Late" is one part of this year's Women Together. Those who attend will also find themselves loving entertainment by the "Men for Mammos," a group of physicians and other well-known gentlemen who will serve, entertain and surprise guests. Attendees will also learn that their gift may allow a cancer patient to live a fuller life.
A drawing for a pampering basket or a jewelry item from CAbi will also be held. Tickets for this raffle are $5 each or five for $20, and are available for purchase at Forest City Honda.
Women Together is presented by the RHI Legacy Foundation. Forest City Honda, who will provide parking lot shuttle service for the event, Levine Cancer Institute and Smith's Drugs of Forest City are major sponsors of the event, and other area businesses have contributed to the project.
Those who would like to attend Woodley's performance only may purchase tickets at the box office the day of the event for $10, and should plan to arrive by 10:45 a.m.
Reservations for Women Together are $36. Honorary or memorial flowers will be displayed to celebrate friendships or to remember loved ones. Reservations for the event and flower orders may be made online at www.RHILegacyFoundation.com or by calling 828-202-4630.