For comedian Joy Behar, spending a day at Vail shopping instead of skiing is perfectly fine with her.
“The best time to go to a ski resort is in the summer, as far as I’m concerned,” Behar joked.
As someone who only hears the “no” in snow and the “or” in sports, this is the ideal season for Behar to embark on her first visit to Vail. Behar will speak at the annual Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group’s (VBCAG) Celebration of Life Luncheon, held at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort on July 15. Although not a breast cancer survivor herself, Behar said she has known many people who’ve had breast cancer and thinks awareness is an important issue.
“There seems to be an upsurge in the numbers (of those affected by breast cancer),” Behar said. “It’s sad to know and be upset by it. There are so many women that are succumbing to it.”
Known for her humorous skewing of topical issues on “The View,” Behar left the popular TV program last year to focus on other projects, such as the one-woman show on which she is currently working. Many are surprised to find that Behar is 71, but on the subject of aging she said, “getting older is one of the things you have to do.”
“I don’t feel any different than when I was 35,” Behar said. “I feel better; I’m more successful now than I was then. I’m happier with my life. I have more of a career.”
Behar’s talk at this year’s luncheon will focus on her life after 35, when she made a big career change and decided to become a comedian.
“(My talk) is about reinventing yourself in mid-life, in your middle years,” Behar said. “I did that. I changed my whole life when I was around 40. One thing I learned is that it’s never too late. It’s never too late to start something. People think they have to be young to try things and that’s not true.”
Behar knows quite a bit about living your dreams and even living beyond them.
“I always thought I was funny,” Behar said. “Even in high school and college and every job I had, I was always making people laugh. (But) interviewing the president, that never occurred to me. I just didn’t think that was in the cards, and then ‘The View’ came along.”
‘WE’VE GOT YOUR BACK’
This is a special year for the Celebration of Life Luncheon, as it’s Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group’s 20th anniversary. Kristin Kenney Williams, president of the VBCAG, said the luncheon is the organization’s signature fundraising event and the speakers always have captivating stories to share.
“Our speakers have inspired, provided medical knowledge and life experiences, made us laugh and made us cry,” Williams said in an email. “(There’s) something for everyone to walk away more aware of how to stay or become healthy and happy.”
Since its inception, the VBCAG has raised nearly $1.5 million and aided almost 800 women in the community. Williams said even local women are “not immune” to the statistic that one in every eight women nationally are diagnosed with breast cancer.
“The Eagle River Valley is a sophisticated yet small community where everyone takes care of each other,” Williams said. “We’re here to say, ‘we’ve got your back.’”
The Celebration of Life Luncheon is a place where survivors and supporters come together to reflect on the past and also focus on the future.
“Each year, I think about the friends and relatives we’ve lost to breast cancer,” Williams said. “I think about the friends and my mother who conquered the disease and are thriving. I think about the women and men who aren’t affected by breast cancer, but who need inspiration to live more healthy and happy. Celebrating life ... we don’t do it enough and our luncheon gives us pause to do so.”
THE HIDDEN COSTS OF BREAST CANCER
While breast cancer research and treatment is always a hot topic, the financial burden women face when it comes to dealing with the disease is not discussed as much. Two years ago, the VBCAG started the Gap Fund, which helps women cover medical bills related to diagnostic services and genetic testing. Williams said many women who are insured for an annual mammogram often do not follow through with diagnostic tests, even if doctors find them necessary, due to their deductible or having to make an additional payment.
“In (the Gap Fund’s) first year, we spent close to $50,000 and two breast cancers were found,” Williams said. “(It’s hard to) imagine if these women chose waiting a year for their insurance to pay for their next mammogram, versus accepting funds made possible by their community, to get the follow-up care that resulted in a diagnosis of cancer.”
Currently, ensuring that no one delays treatment due to financial need is the top priority of the VBCAG. Looking ahead, eliminating a need for the organization might end up being its best measure for success.
“I would love to get the phone call saying, ‘We found a cure, and we don’t need the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group anymore,’” Williams said.
Until that fateful phone call, the only weapons many have are getting the word out and early detection.
“It’s amazing how little information gets trickled down sometimes,” Behar said. “Awareness groups are crucial to the cause.”
Maybe one way to spread breast cancer awareness is through a joke or two. Luckily for the Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group, Behar has that covered.