Fran Linton remembers clearly her mother’s answer when she asked why her mom volunteered to be a “test” for unknown and unproven cancer drugs.
“I do it because one day you or someone else may be saved if one of these drugs I’m taking does work,” her mom answered. Her mom had just discovered a lump in her breast for the second time and wasn’t given much hope for survival.
It was a profound statement that was truer than Linton’s mother would ever know because, almost 40 years later, she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two of the drugs used in Linton’s treatment were drugs her mom was the “test” for.
“I found this out at my first appointment with the same oncologist who treated my mother,” Linton said. “He remembered my mom.”
With her husband’s job contract ending, however, Linton had just six months to complete all her treatments before losing her health insurance, so she was aware of the problems many people face when undergoing cancer treatment.
Linton made it through her treatments with the encouragement of friends in the Kingwood Women’s Club and the Breast Cancer Support Group at Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital.
More recently, Linton also “made it through her first pitch” near the pitcher’s mound at Minute Maid Park on Mother’s Day this year.
“Because I’m a breast cancer survivor and because of my volunteer work, I was asked to throw out the first pitch as part of the Astros’ Mother’s Day/Breast Cancer Awareness Day,” she said.
Fran practiced throwing in her back yard.
“I hadn’t thrown a ball since my junior-high days. I surprised myself by being able to throw it pretty far and pretty straight,” Linton said.
And when she got to the pitcher’s mound at Minute Maid?
“When I threw it to Brad Peacock, a pitcher who acted as my catcher, it was a little short and bounced in front of him,” Linton said. “My big chance to throw to a World Series winning player and I went too far back and bounced it!”
For her efforts, Linton got a ball signed by Peacock, a pink Louisville Slugger bat with her name on it, and a swag bag with lots of Astros goodies in it.
“It was a fun experience, and from the reaction of my friends, a very big deal,” Linton said, “but I was so relieved that I didn’t hit a player and take them out for the rest of the season.”
Linton said Peacock had a good laugh when she told him she was hoping she wouldn’t hurt him if she threw it too hard.
“I’m sure he thought a 71-year-old woman is going to be a real threat,” she said.
Linton was the perfect choice to throw out the first pitch for the Astros’ annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
“My volunteer work, in some small way, helps me continue my mom’s journey that, for her, was cut too short,” Fran said. “I feel her presence in all I do.”
Several other ladies in the Kingwood Women’s Club are breast cancer survivors and many more were diagnosed after Linton was, “… So, in 2001, when we had an extra $5,000 to spend after our fundraiser, we decided as a women’s club to support women’s issues and donate it to the Northeast Hospital Foundation to help uninsured women who could not afford mammograms,” she said.
That single gift created what is now Project Mammogram, a Northeast Hospital Foundation program housed at Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital in Humble. The program provides mammograms, ultrasounds and any subsequent services to area women who meet the foundation’s guidelines.
Then Kingwood Women’s Club went one step further. The 2001 Club President, Bonnie Robertson, asked Project Mammogram’s Founder, Joyce White, if members could help get the word out.
“Since our members already were volunteering at various missions in the area, we were able to get a system in place pretty quickly,” said Linton.
Soon, members were holding breast education sessions and signing women up for exams.
“I feel this is what I was meant to do,” said Linton. “I’m Project Mammogram’s office manager and project liaison to the club and I’m in a good position, what with my own experience, to offer advice and comfort to those worried about a lump or a biopsy proven to be cancer.”
Project Mammogram now provides women and men more than 650 mammogram and diagnostic services each year.
“We usually diagnose from six to 13 cancers each year but, just as important, we offer our patients peace of mind that they do not have cancer,” Linton said.
Hurricane Harvey affected Project Mammogram fundraising efforts, so the program is experiencing a funding deficit, according to Brook Baugh, event consultant for the Northeast Hospital Foundation’s 11th annual In the Pink of Health Luncheon.
The luncheon benefits Project Mammogram and will be held Friday, Oct. 19, in the Airport Marriott Grand Ballroom beginning with a champagne reception at 10:30 a.m. The event will include several raffle prizes, bid board items and a shopping boutique.
The guest speaker is local entrepreneur and cancer survivor, Keith Isbell, who will share five tips of living well. Julia Morales, sideline reporter for the Houston Astros, will emcee.
While the Kingwood Women’s Club and Susan G. Komen Houston continue to provide grants, Baugh says the foundation is developing additional programs to help fund Project Mammogram.
“Our Partners in Pink Program is a year-round fundraising opportunity for businesses to pledge a certain percentage of their proceeds over a period to In the Pink. The foundation also has scheduled the first-ever “Play for the Pink” golf tournament for Sept. 28,” she said.
Cristi Cardenas and Tribune owner Cynthia Calvert are In the Pink of Health co-chairs.
“Things happen in your life for a reason,” said Linton, “and it is up to all of us to decide what to do with what we are given. Helping others in their journey through this scary and frightening time in their life has been a blessing to me.”
For more information about the In the Pink of Health Luncheon, the partners program, golf tournament or Project Mammogram, visit northeasthospitalfoundation.org.