Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group celebrates 25 years
Joan Lunden speaks at annual Celebration of Life luncheon in Vail
The Vail Breast Cancer Awareness Group (VBCAG) celebrated 25 years this summer with its annual Celebration of Life luncheon and invited longtime “Good Morning America” host, Joan Lunden, to treat event-goers to a candid and inspirational message about her own battle with breast cancer.
The VBCAG supports those in Eagle County who are diagnosed with the disease by contributing money to help purchase diagnostic equipment at the Sonnenalp Breast Center and Shaw Cancer Center as well as funds to help relieve the stress of treatment. The annual luncheon is the largest fundraiser of the year for this nonprofit that is run by a small group of volunteers.
The VBCAG luncheons have brought in big names such as Dr. Susan Love, Linda Ellerbee, Elizabeth Edwards, Giuliana & Bill Rancic, and last year’s speaker, Dorothy Hamill. Other notable supporters throughout the years include Betty Ford, a breast cancer survivor, who used to participate in the VBCAG’s annual fashion shows that happened during the early years of the luncheon.
Lunden is also a breast cancer survivor. She was diagnosed in 2014 and after going through rigorous treatments she has been cancer-free for 5 years. Lunden said that she always felt that she was immune to breast cancer because it didn’t run in her family, which she talks about in her book, “Had I Known”.
I didn’t take Lunden long to realize that her journey, although a very personal matter, should be shared with the public and now speaks all over the country on the topic of women’s health. She also has been known to head to Washington D.C. to fight for legislation that provides women with information about their breast density.
Ironically, Lunden’s father was a cancer surgeon, so she grew up around the topic. “People would stop my dad on the street and give him a hug and say to me, ‘do you know how important your dad is to our family?’”
Lunden referenced Betty Ford’s involvement in the VBCAG luncheons in the past and praised the former First Lady for going public with her battle.
“Nobody was talking about breast cancer in our country until Betty Ford started talking about it,” Lunden said. “I remember doctors back in the day when my dad was a breast cancer surgeon, when a woman would be diagnosed, quite often they wouldn’t even tell her because why give her anxiety because there was nothing they could do for it. It was really Betty Ford, coming out and talking about her breast cancer, that made it ok in this country.”
She compared that to today’s vast amount of information available to women. “It’s amazing how women can talk on social media groups and chats and share their experiences and help support each other,” Lunden said. “It’s a wonderful thing today, that women have come together and don’t have to suffer in silence.”
Lunden said that she realized within days of being diagnosed that her cancer battle would not just be her journey, it would be her new mission. “Fighting for the lives of other women dealing with cancer was an amazing opportunity to carry on my dad’s legacy. And quite honestly, I don’t think I could have ever been given a more important assignment,” Lunden said. “So, I am here today to remind all of you that we need to be vigilant. Don’t ever let yourself drop to the bottom of your to-do list.”