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Home > Press Room > Interviews & Features > Beyond Breast Cancer

Surviving Breast Cancer is Celebrated

by Frances Hayes
Courtesy of Wilkes Journal-Patriot, North Wilkesboro, NC
September 10, 2001

Reclaiming her life was one of the first thoughts coming to Nancy Davenport-Ennis the morning after her mastectomy.

"To get well psychologically, I had to reclaim my life," said Mrs. Davenport-Ennis, during the seventh annual Breast Cancer Celebration held on Saturday [September 8, 2001] at the Walker Center in Wilkesboro.

The Beyond Breast Cancer Celebration started around 9 a.m. Saturday and ended at 2:30 p.m. The emcee was Diane Combs of Wilkesboro. Ms. Combs works at the Wilkes Department of Social Services and is a member of the Blue Ridge Cancer Coalition (BRCC), sponsors of the event.

The purpose is to celebrate the lives of breast cancer survivors. BRCC includes Wilkes, Alleghany, Ashe, Surry, and Watauga Counties.

Mrs. Davenport-Ennis is the founder and president of the National Patient Advocate Foundation (NPAF), a national organization that advances legislative and policy reform measures to improve access to healthcare through state and federal initiatives.

As she "reclaimed her life," Mrs. Davenport-Ennis began to see a "new bouquet of opportunities."

"Yes I have breast cancer, but I can deal with it," said Mrs. Davenport-Ennis to the 150 people gathered for the celebration.

"I began to fully appreciate every person who loved me. Before I had been to busy and took them for granted," she said.

Everything is beautiful now, said Mrs. Davenport-Ennis.

After her first mastectomy, she was certain that cancer had spread to her other breast, but there were no physical signs. The cancer was discovered when she and her husband insisted on a biopsy.

"My intuition told me I had a problem," said Mrs. Davenport-Ennis. "When your intuition gives you a message, don't delegate your health to a care-giver.

"God gives us many gifts. Intuition is our saving grace," she said.

Mrs. Davenport-Ennis has used her positive and fighting attitude to help other women. She went to work when she learned a friend's insurance company had rescinded its consent for experimental treatment.

Fundraising, led by Mrs. Davenport-Ennis, gave her friend the necessary funding for the treatment.

The day after her friend died, Mrs. Davenport-Ennis began plans for her new organization the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF).

The primary purpose is to assist people who have been denied access to medical trials or home health care, treatments and restrictions because insurance claims have been denied.

In 1996, PAF was able to work with 156 patients. In four years the number had grown to 31,629. Funding comes from grants, corporate and individual donations and the sale from pamphlets to hospitals and university medical centers.

In the organization's five year history, all but two cases have have been resolved before reaching trial.

The organization began receiving attention by the national press as its success rate bcame known. This helped the PAF's lobbying efforts in Congress for better health care plans.

On Saturday, Mrs. Davenport-Ennis urged the crowd to speak or write to their Congressman. "Your voice is the most important one in this debate," she said.

About the Blue Ridge Cancer Coalition
The BRCC was formed after the funding from the National Cancer Institute came to an end in 2000. From 1993-2000, funding was channeled through the Southern Appalachian Leadership Initiative on Cancer (SALC).

The purpose was to raise awareness about the early detection of breast cancer in selected Appalachian counties in North and South Carolina and Georgia.

Research showed a 20 percent increase in the four county area served by SALIC (Wilkes, Ashe, Surry and Alleghany). With such success, the coalition continued under the name BRCC.

Representatives from the five county area (Watauga is a member) meet monthly to help counties with technical assistance and continuation of community outreach and education. It has also broadened its focus to include colorectal and skin cancer.

Wilkes County representatives are Diane Combs, Susan Fuller, and Donna Edsel. Judy West is a resource person.