On Wednesday evening, the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a reception at the Naval Observatory commemorating Breast Cancer Awareness Month for survivors, advocates and women’s health groups.
Vice President Biden said that he and Dr. Biden have long been committed to the cause of raising awareness for breast cancer, a disease he said had taken 40,000 lives this year. He thanked the survivors at the reception for their courage, which he said gives other women with breast cancer hope.
“The thing that amazes me is those of you who are survivors how you speak up,” he said.
Every time you speak up about what you’ve been through it takes you back to having gone through it. There’s nothing easy about that. I think people underestimate what courage it takes. But I know you do understand it gives so many other women hope. It means more in my view than anything that doctors can do or say to see you guys who actually went through what they went through and survived.
He said that the progress underway in detecting and treating breast cancer is incredible, thanks to more research and our nation's stronger focus on women’s health issues. He said that 35 years ago, breast cancer was "viewed as a death warrant," but today that is not the case.
Dr. Biden, who started the Biden Breast Health Initiative in Delaware 20 years ago to educate high school girls about the importance of breast health and early detection, explained that “when breast cancer is caught early and treated, survival rates can be nearly 100 percent.” And now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 47 million women with insurance will have access to preventive services like mammograms at no extra cost.
“It’s such an incredible honor to be here tonight with so many breast cancer survivors --there are so many survivors here -- advocates and others who have been personally impacted by this disease,” Dr. Biden said. “Every one of us is here tonight because this battle is personal. Too many of us have lost a loved one -- or seen a friend or a colleague endure painful treatments.
Dr. Biden shared the stories of some of the women at the reception who were turning their own experiences into advocacy and said she was proud of all the women fighting this disease every day.
“I’m so proud to be part of an administration that is committed to this progress,” she said. “For me it’s like a dream come true.”
Among the reception’s guests were sisters Shannon Amsler and Helene Nigro Shepard. In early June, Shannon of Lexington, Massachusetts wrote to the Vice President on behalf of her younger sister Helene, who was recently diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 39. She explained, “We are on a campaign to give her some great ‘Happy Helene” days” and asked that the Vice President and Dr. Biden send Helene a message of support.
Their reply came in the form of an invitation, asking if the sisters would be able to come to the Vice President and Dr. Biden’s residence for their Breast Cancer Awareness Month reception. Though juggling her treatment with the care of her three young children, Helene joined them in Washington for the evening, training down from Boston with her sister and tireless supporter, Shannon.