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  • October is Think Pink Month: Avera 'Pink Lady' Advocates for Breast Cancer Awareness

Published on October 03, 2012

October is Think Pink Month: Avera 'Pink Lady' Advocates for Breast Cancer Awareness

SIOUX FALLS (Oct. 1, 2012) – As a little girl in the late 1940s, Nancy Olson became an advocate in the fight against polio. Today she’s still in the fight against serious disease – only now, her focus is cancer.

“I see an advocate as someone who speaks out for and with others who are facing a difficult diagnosis,” says Nancy.

A few years after being hospitalized and treated for spinal paralytic polio, the young Nancy and her mother helped create radio public service announcements to raise funds for the March of Dimes, originally established by Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide financial assistance to polio survivors and their families while a cure for polio was being sought.

Three years ago, Nancy entered into her second bout with a serious illness when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer after an abnormality was discovered during her annual mammogram. “That same week, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer.” 

As a team, Nancy and her husband, Bill, began their treatments.  Nancy faced a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation. “Three weeks after my mastectomy, my husband went into surgery to treat his prostate cancer and later also underwent radiation treatments.”

Aside from common skin cancers, breast cancer happens to be the number one cancer in women, and prostate cancer is the top cancer diagnosed in men.

Both Nancy and Bill wanted to be strong for the other. Nancy said fighting cancer together “helped both of us buck up.  We had teamwork and it helped us get through it in a special way.”  Together with the support from doctors, staff and volunteers at the Avera Cancer Institute and those in their family and church communities, the couple reached their goal.  As they had hoped and prayed for, they both made it to their 50th wedding anniversary in good health.  “It was a double celebration,” Nancy relates – one of reaching this milestone anniversary, and overcoming cancer together. 

As a breast cancer survivor, Nancy wanted to give back as an advocate once again.  After completing her treatment, she became an Avera Think Pink Lady, while she and Bill also volunteer at the Avera Cancer Institute.  As a Think Pink Lady, she promotes the importance of routine mammograms and screenings, as both her cancer and her husband’s were discovered because of them.  As a member of this group, she also is part of the volunteer leadership for the Avera Race Against Breast Cancer, which is celebrating its 25th year with the next race, scheduled for May 11, 2013. 

As an effort that offers guidance and support as well as devotion to finding a cure, “Think Pink provides the same kind of thing as the March of Dimes.”  Nancy is happy to once again be “part of an organized effort to help provide emotional and financial support” to those suffering from illness. 

Nancy was able to witness the dream of a cure for polio become reality when the polio vaccine was introduced in 1955.  “I just hope I live long enough to see what happened with polio happen with breast cancer…I would love to see the Race go a whole different direction once a cure is found for breast cancer.” 

Think Pink strives to connect patients with survivors who are able to share their stories and encouragement. “As Think Pink ladies, we try to be an advocate for others who are facing breast cancer.” In that role, she encourages women to get their annual mammograms and urges everyone to help them achieve the Pink Ladies’ “ultimate hope – to see a victory against breast cancer.”

The sooner breast cancer is detected and treated, the better the outcomes. For early detection, American Cancer Society recommendations include:

  • Annual clinical breast exams for all women
  • Monthly self-breast exams for all women
  • Annual mammograms for women age 40 and older, or women with a family history or other risk factors.


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