A turquoise ribbon stretching 1 1/2 miles . . . 175,000 letters . . . the appeals of hundreds of women. . . . A coalition of breast cancer groups hopes these ingredients will rivet the nation's attention on breast cancer.
As October -- National Breast Cancer Awareness month -- kicks off, a coalition of women's groups, health advocacy groups and other organizations is hoping to get 175,000 letters to wrap in ribbon and deliver to Congress and the White House on Oct. 8.
"This is a disease all women fear. And every man should fear it, too, for his wife, mother, sister, daughter," says Marsha Oakley, co-founder of the Arm-in-Arm support group for women with cancer, and also captain of the local letter-writing effort.
According to the American Cancer Society, 175,000 cases of breast cancer are expected in the United States by the end of 1991; although lung cancer has recently surpassed breast cancer as the leading cancer killer of women, breast cancer still tops the list of cancers that afflict women. One in nine American women will develop the disease in her lifetime.
The Breast Cancer Coalition hopes that the letters -- one for each new case of breast cancer this year -- will show the "tremendous grass-roots power" of breast cancer activists, says Amy Langer, a national leader in the letter-writing campaign.
In each state, campaign captains have been trying to get at least one letter for every new case expected in their locale. Maryland's goal was 3,400 letters, according to Ms. Oakley.
And by last Thursday, she had received nearly double that.
But that doesn't mean the opportunity to be heard has passed. Marylanders who want their voices to count still have this week to send in letters in support of the coalition's goals -- increased money for research into the cause and cure of breast cancer, improved access to high-quality treatment for all women; and the appointment of women with breast cancer to panels and commissions involved in breast cancer issues.
The letters should ask Congress to set breast cancer as a priority and to fund programs for detection and cure. Both the U.S. Senate and the House have approved $40 million in new funds for breast cancer programs in fiscal 1992, subject to final conference approval, Ms. Langer says.
Currently, the federal National Cancer Institute spends about $80 million on breast cancer programs.
Letters can be sent to: The American Cancer Society Legislative Office; Attention: Breast Cancer Coalition; 316 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E.; Suite 200; Washington, D.C. 20003. Include your name and address, Ms. Oakley said, so that your letter can be added to the others from this state.
WJHU to air cancer series
As part of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the radio program "Soundprint" (WJHU 88.1) will present a series of three programs on breast cancer.
* "A Primer on Breast Cancer," Saturday at 6 p.m. Each program will be rebroadcast the following Friday at 6 p.m.
* "Reaching for Power Through the Pain," Oct. 12 at 6 p.m.
* "New Trends in Breast Cancer Research," Oct. 19 at 6 p.m.
* Also, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, a live, national call-in program called "Breaking the Silence" will be aired. Anyone with questions or experiences about breast cancer is encouraged to call in.
* For free materials on breast cancer, in English or Spanish, write: Breast Cancer Awareness Month, P.O. Box 4333, Grand Central Station, New York, N.Y. 10163-4333, or, call the Maryland division of the American Cancer Society at (800) ACS-2345.