A little over a month ago, Ace, a 2-year-old female Lab mix, was an orphaned pup dropped off at the St. Tammany Parish animal shelter in Lacombe.
Her former owners needed to part ways with the black beauty because she is said to have an issue with seizures, and the family couldn’t afford her care.
Fast forward to October: Ace is still in the shelter, but now she’s also an unorthodox champion for breast cancer awareness.
Like some other shelter pups, has taken on a new role wearing pink accessories to help promote breast cancer awareness as part of the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s annual “Geaux Pink” campaign in October.
When it comes to promoting a cause amid the chaos of COVID-19 and ongoing mandates, it’s all about creativity, said Erica Kelt, director of development for the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Covington, and finding novel ways to fight a disease that affects every one in eight women.
Ace is part of Bark for a Cure, hosted by Mardi Paws, which is a weeklong event Oct. 11-17 online on the Mardi Paws Facebook or barkforacure.net. The event features raffles, contests and, of course, fundraising. Proceeds from the event will benefit the cancer center.
“We just have a soft spot in our hearts for people that are suffering and we want to do anything we can to make it a little bit easier on them,” said Mardi Paws founder Denise Gutnisky.
The Geaux Pink effort is ongoing through the month of October, and donors can take on any method of fundraising — individual or as a team — and contribute directly online. All moneys raised will go toward the center’s breast cancer screening and prevention efforts, said Kelt, which includes the mobile unit that sets up at various public places throughout the parish.
“You’ll see our mobile screening unit or mammogram unit at place like a Walgreens or Winn-Dixie because people are already going there,” said Kelt. “People can just go there and get screened so they don’t have to make a second appointment at their doctor’s office.”
Navigators are also there to assist if something is discovered during the test that needs follow-up.
In the case of Dr. Jay Saux, oncologist, and Dr. Angela Buonagura, breast surgeon, their message is in the fingernails. The two teamed up to get their nails done up in pink, and they’re encouraging others to do the same and donate.
According to the Geaux Pink website, the idea is to get pink fingernails and toenails for the month of October and donate to the cancer center in Covington.
Saux, who is known throughout the community for his flamboyant pirate costumes and upbeat attitude, said he went with a bold sparkle pink gel wrap, while Dr. Buonagura decided on a soft pink polish. The two got their nails done together at the P&G Salon in Covington while chatting about the importance of breast cancer awareness. It’s a subject that both doctors are passionate about and experience firsthand every day.
Saux said that because of the pandemic, many people have pushed off their regular screenings, which could be detrimental to their health. Breast cancer is a disease that can be combated successfully if it’s detected early on, added Buonagura.
Saux said at the beginning of the pandemic, the number of women being treated fell off abruptly, but he’s already seeing an increase in the number of marked tumors, which he notes is “a reflection that patients put off their screenings.” He anticipates an increase in demand, yet again, for health care workers but this time not because of COVID-19.
“The death from these other things are passing the COVID problems at this point,” said Buonagura.
“Now we have these people getting diagnosed with a lump, and rather than flattening the curve, we have peaks in other areas,” added Saux.
Both said that even though a person might not feel any symptoms, it’s “critically important” to be screened regularly, as breast cancer isn’t always felt right away. The standard is that women between the ages of 35 and 40 should get their first mammogram done, and then complete a test annually every year after they turn 40.
However, it’s not just women who are affected by breast cancer, said Saux. About 1% of his patients are male, which is why he chose to get his nails done.
“I’m here representing for the men,” said Saux. “It’s just something fun, and we can get pink nails for a month and let everybody know that we’re out there trying to increase awareness and get screenings done at the appropriate time.”
For a full list of businesses and organizations participating in Geaux Pink or to launch your own fundraiser, visit the Geaux Pink website at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/geauxpinkcovington.
To learn more about Bark for a Cure, visit barkforacure.net.