Do you know a community hero or organization that needs to be recognized?
Chances are you’ve seen, or been to, the annual Flames of Hope torch lighting and road races over the Columbus Day Weekend. This month Jim Hummel takes a look at the vast array of work the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource foundation is doing the rest of the year and introduces you to some of the lives the foundation has touched.
Click HERE for more information on the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.
It is a powerful scene, and one that has played out ever year in front of the Rhode Island State House for the past decade. People touched by breast cancer making a very public statement. Many are survivors, others are family or friends there to show support.
Chances are you’ve heard about the annual Columbus Day weekend Flames of Hope: A Celebration of Life, or seen it firsthand as it plays out between the State House and Waterplace Park. The Flames of Hope event is the most public - but only one piece of an effort throughout the rest of the year by the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation - taking direct aim at awareness and support.
Gemma: ``Cancer is as much an emotional disease as it is a physical disease. The impact of it on the family is traumatic.’’
Maria Gemma, the foundation’s executive director, is the second-oldest of Gloria Gemma’s nine children that includes four daughters and five sons. Gloria Gemma was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer in 2001 at the age of 69. She died a year later.
Gemma: ``Quite frankly I didn’t even know the terminology for cancer. Until we learned very quickly about staging and clinical trials and even just some of the everyday expressions that I live now I had no clue what they were.’’
Gloria’s Gemma’s death, and the experience the family went through, planted the seed for what would grow into a foundation that has touched tens of thousands of lives over the past 10 years. It began in a small strip mall in North Providence and is now located on the second floor of this office building near downtown Pawtucket with a full-time staff of seven people.
Gemma: ``We’re not a medical facility, but we are a facility that can connect the dots and provide those resources. And provide that listening ear and provide that support. The degree of need is so different. I could have a child come in here with his mom to a class and he could literally come in my office, can I talk to you? I can’t talk to my mother because I don’t want her to worry about me.’’
Not surprisingly, it’s hard to find a room where pink is not the dominant color. The huge conference room is a reminder of those who are fighting the battle and just down the hall brochures on a wide variety of topics related to cancer. Next door a library with even more literature.
Every year the foundation has widened its scope and now has a support group for men - and for young survivors.
Waterman: ``I was breast feeding the twins and I felt the lump and I knew it wasn’t right.’’
Jen Waterman was a 33-year-old mother of three young children when she was diagnosed in 2013. Her mother had died at the age of 49 of ovarian cancer.
Waterman: ``I have a really good support system. My husband has been unbelievable, my mother-in-law, equally unbelievable, she moved in with us once I was diagnosed once I started chemo.’’
And within weeks someone at the Cranston elementary school where Jen is a teacher told her about Gloria Gemma.