Becky Horn- Pretty In Pink Foundation Executive Director, & Breast Cancer Survivor & Thriver
Updated: Oct 10, 2021
Breast cancer runs in my family. My mother died of breast cancer, when I was 11 years old, and my fraternal twin sister got breast cancer. After my mother died, my father remarried, and my stepmother got breast cancer and eventually my stepsister was diagnosed with breast cancer and died from it. In my immediate family, all the women have had breast cancer. So, I was put in touch with Dr. Tolnitch. I went to see her regularly, every quarter for years just to stay on top of it because I knew, eventually, it would be my turn. It was my turn after two or three biopsies. One year it came back positive, and I had a double mastectomy then. After that, Dr. Tolnitch and I had known each other for years at the time, she asked if I would join the Board of Pretty in Pink Foundation. I joined the board, then, and became a Treasurer. I've been on the board for 9 years and the Treasurer for the last 5 years.
The Foundation had reached a point where it was time to infuse some additional talent. I asked Dr. Tolnitch if I could step off the Board and run Pretty in Pink Foundation. From not knowing doctors, to being on the board and running this organization, to now being the Executive Director, it's great because I'd had a career in Corporate America in Hi Tech Product Marketing and General Management, but this is personal. This is how I want to end my career, working on something that I’m very passionate about. So, thanks to Dr. Tolnitch, I am able to do this now, and I'm now surrounded by four incredible people that are just as passionate about this as I am. Every day we get up and come into some office, maybe it's virtual or maybe it's this one, but we get up every day and go do what we're supposed to do. We fund breast cancer patients in North Carolina that are struggling to pay their medical bills, and at risk of not receiving their medical treatment because of their financial situation. We take that burden off their shoulders. I enjoy running a business, but the part that is also extremely enjoyable is meeting the Champions and talking to them. Becoming a Champion is when they fill out an application, they meet the requirements and share their story. These stories are heartbreaking. You know that these are people that wake-up every day and for the most part go to a job, pay their bills, and take care of their families. They are not ready for this extremely expensive life-threatening medical problem and that's where we come in.
We have not turned anyone away since I've been associated with it. The Foundation was founded in 2004, we served our first patient in 2006 and we've served an increasing number every year. Last year we served 250, and on our way to probably hitting 300 this year. Every year we serve more and more, and we serve with you to meet the qualifications of Pretty in Pink Foundation, which is that you are in active treatment for breast cancer, that you are a North Carolina resident and a US citizen and make less than 25% the federal poverty level if you meet those criteria, you can become a Champion and so far, we have not turned anyone away. If you walk in the door, you get served. We don't care how old you are, and we don't care what your race is. If you have a family history or not, we don't care about your socio-economic situation, except that you can't pay your bills. So that's who we help, day after day and it's an honor to serve. That’s what we're on the hunt for. Finding those people that are at this point in their life, and for whatever reason they have a financial barrier to their medical treatment and we're going to move that very barrier out of the way, so that they can have an increased chance of surviving.
I’ve been a breast cancer survivor since 2004. I myself just remember thinking, I just want to live long enough to see my kids graduate from high school and I did. My mother didn't get that chance. So, I’ve set goals for myself during my life, based on my mother, you know, I just wanted to live past 42 years old. And then I wanted to live long enough to see my kids graduate from high school, I felt like they could get that far, they'd be okay, and now they're in their 30s. I was at the age in the early 50s, which is a very popular age for breast cancer, but, we have served people as young as 25 and as old as 87. Breast cancer does not age discriminate. I am fearful about young people thinking that this is an elderly or middle-aged woman disease, it's increasingly not. My advice for them would be to talk to your doctor about the appropriate time for you to start having your mammograms and then get them every year. In North Carolina, early detection and treatment is everything. It makes a difference, and the percentage of survival is 94%, which is better than the national average. It's all about finding it early, so go get your mammograms and then if you do get the news, go get your treatment, and if you can't afford your treatment come see us.
In addition to us there's a program funded by the state government. It's called the North Carolina Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program. There’s a website to contact them, and if you meet their criteria, which is very similar to ours; you can enroll with them, and your mammograms are free. Pretty in Pink of course doesn't pay for mammograms, but we treat people after they've gotten breast cancer. Before that, to help people get their mammograms if you are economically disadvantaged at this moment in your life and putting off mammograms there's no need to because the NCBCCCP program will get you in and for free. If Breast Cancer is discovered, they can help you get what they call Breast Cancer Medicare, which is free.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services forecast this year that about 12,000 new cases of Breast Cancer will occur in North Carolina. This is forecasted by the county. Every county will have new cases of breast cancer and we want to make sure that, regardless of the county that you live in, you have the opportunity to get some medical services and get the help needed. Of those people, about 20% of them are going to have some financial difficulty.
Common myths that are not true to be aware of:
“I’m too young to get breast cancer.” Breast Cancer doesn’t age discriminate.
“I don't have any history of breast cancer in my family.” Everybody that has breast cancer in their family somebody started it, so they were the first one. Today, in North Carolina, about 85% of the new breast cancer patients have no history of breast cancer in their family. So, just because you don’t have a family history doesn’t mean you don’t need to go get a mammogram.
“It's only a woman's disease.” 1 in 1000 men get breast cancer versus one in eight women so it's far fewer, of course, it is still possible.
“I’m in great shape, I have a great diet, and I work out. I'm not going to get breast cancer.” I can't tell you how many people we have served that are just stunned that they got breast cancer. They have a healthy lifestyle. They may not drink or smoke, but cancer doesn't care. Your biggest risk of getting cancers is being a woman. Your defense is to go get your mammograms and then catch it early and get treated. That's your recipe for sure.
Pretty in Pink Foundation is really special because we're the only ones in the state that do what we do. There is no other nonprofit in the state whose primary mission is to pay for medical treatment for breast cancer patients. When a patient comes to us and completes their application and they're accepted, we call them a Champion. When they become a Pretty in Pink Champion, we then advocate on their behalf, and when the bills are coming in, we negotiate on their behalf. We ask if the medical system charity arm has done all that they can do, and then, once we get to that point, we asked them to take a lower rate. There's no one else in the state that does this. The importance of this is that once people come to us, they pretty much have nowhere else to go. We have never turned anyone away in seven years. We help people right here in our communities. Every county in North Carolina has received some assistance from us, except for six. We would really like to be able to say that we've helped somebody from all 100 counties, we're working on that too.
Pretty in Pink Foundation has one signature event during the year. That would be the Pink Pumps and Bow Ties Gala that is held every year at the Carolina Country Club and it's on our website now. It is a great evening of people coming together with a common purpose. That is to help people in North Carolina survive breast cancer. So, it's a great time to dress up and get out. Maybe get a good deal on some auction items and things like that. So join us, visit https://ppbt2021.planningpod.com/ for more information!