PVDA Ride for Life – Making a Difference
The PVDA Ride for Life™ serves to make a difference in the fight against breast cancer and the
initiatives that support quality of life of afflicted individuals. To date, we have raised over $550,000
for the Johns Hopkins Breast Center for quality of life research, patient retreats and
breast surgical oncology fellowships.
Statement from David Euhus, MD;
Director Breast Surgery; Professor of Surgery
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Enormous progress has been made against breast cancer in the last two decades. Treatment is becoming more individualized and survival rates are increasing. For most women diagnosed with breast cancer the journey begins in the office of a Breast Surgeon. The modern Breast Surgeon is not only facile in the operating room, but also an excellent communicator with a working knowledge of genetics, chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, radiation therapy and host of support services that may be called upon before, during and after treatment. A fellowship-trained breast surgeon is someone who has completed specialized training in breast care after finishing a 5 – 7 year general surgery residency. Johns Hopkins Breast Surgery Fellows rotate through 11 essential disciplines as they are mentored by exceptional Johns Hopkins faculty.
The American Society of Breast Surgeons and the Society of Surgical Oncology have teamed up to establish standards for the training of Breast Surgeons. Getting accredited by this body is entirely voluntary, but it would permit us to participate in a national match program each year to recruit the very best fellows. The 300 page application we submitted last August was approved and we have a site visit scheduled for March 2017.
Many people are surprised to learn that advanced fellowships like this are rarely financially supported by the Universities and Departments that offer them. This is just a fact of life in the current health care economy. The Johns Hopkins Breast Surgery Fellowship is 100% supported by the Potomac Valley Dressage Association Ride-for-Life. I’m not always sure the PVDA volunteers who work so tirelessly for the fellowship realize the impact they are having on the thousands of breast cancer patients who will be cared for in the future by our fellows.
Quality of Life Research
Quality of life research is an under-funded area within the needs of breast cancer patients during and
after treatment protocols. Ride for Life funds have helped to make a difference in the form of a
survivorship care program. The supply and demand for oncology specialists needed compared to the
number of diagnosed patient candidates is a shortage of 41 to 48 percent by year 2020. Doctors no
longer can follow the long-term care of cancer patients.
Ride for Life supports studies about issues that breast cancer survivors face and developing ways to
reduce the long- term side effects (i.e. menopausal symptoms from chemo and hormonal therapy,
peripheral neuropathy that can last for years, lymphedema—a chronic condition, and psychological
issues associated with fear of recurrence, body image alterations and post traumatic syndrome to
name a few). RNs, PCPs and GYNs are receiving education to help support these long-term needs.
Additionally patients who have metastatic disease and will lose their lives from breast cancer are also
being supported to ensure their wishes are known and quality of life is preserved for as long as
Ride for Life has helped to fund retreats for patients and their family members battling metastatic
disease as a family. These 2.5-day/2-night stay events are specifically designed for end-of-life
patients with stage IV disease and spouses. They are provided to the patients and spouses/partners
for free at the Bon Secours Spiritual Center. The hope for the future is to develop a resource and
planning kit for other breast centers around the country so that other institutions beyond Johns
Hopkins can provide such a valuable program.
These retreats are designed to take quality of life studies relative to the issues facing these patients
and families and develop programs to ease their physical and emotional pain. They provide support
for spouses left to raise children alone, work to ensure that the patients’ wishes are known, and teach
the patient how to come to closure with her family, friends and herself as she approaches end of life.
People attending these retreats “come broken, angry, lost and leave with a sense of peace and feeling
of purpose in their life, despite it being cut short” states Lillie Shockney, administrative director for
the Johns Hopkins Breast Center.
Proceeds from the 2011 Ride for Life covered a portion of the costs of creating a documentary of the
couples’ retreat to inspire other cancer centers to create similar programs for families in their own
Additionally, the documentary will be used here to encourage women with stage IV breast cancer to
participate in a retreat. Lillie Shockney pleads, “women have the right to die with dignity, get closure
with their family, make a plan for their children and have support for their spouses to endure what
they must witness as she approaches end of life.”
Ride for Life funds also help support a second retreat for women with metastatic disease and a
female caregiver. The length of the program is the same, 2.5 days and 2 nights, but the content is a bit
different recognizing the special bond that women have with one another as the patient faces making
Breast Surgical Oncology Fellowships
Ride for Life funds were used to fund the training of Dr. Anna Voltura, a general surgeon who
wanted to specialize exclusively in breast cancer surgery and treatment, spent one year at Hopkins
learning the newest techniques in the diagnosis, surgical treatment and medical management of
breast cancer. This intensive training enabled her to return home to New Mexico where, with the
endorsement of the Hopkins Breast Center faculty, she was able to open a breast center and serve as
the director of the breast program, which specializes in underserved women in that region of the
country. She anticipated treating 200 breast cancer patients a year, but actually operated on more
than 800 individuals in 2010.
Ride for Life funds also supported the fellowship of Dr. Eman Sbaity from Lebanon, where
reconstructive surgery has never been done. Overall, the mortality rate in the Middle East is above 85
percent and most of these individuals are diagnosed in their 30s and 40s. Dr. Sbaity learned how to
do core biopsies, clinical breast exams and develop communication skills to utilize with patients. She
also learned all of the various breast cancer surgery techniques including breast reconstruction so that
patients can receive state-of-the-art breast cancer treatment in the future. She also is trained in serving
as a “train the trainer” for other physicians who wish to specialize in breast cancer and join her
efforts. When she returns to Lebanon, after she completes a research fellowship, she will be able to
provide the patients with full silhouette after mastectomy surgery.
Proceeds from the 2011 Ride for Life supported Dr. Rosemarie Hardin’s fellowship at Hopkins. In
addition to focusing on surgical techniques and decision making, the training addresses medical
oncology, radiation oncology, breast imaging radiology, breast pathology, breast reconstruction and
long-term survivorship follow up. A very unique portion of her training includes her attending the
retreats referenced above to give her an intimate understanding of the psychosocial needs of patients
and their families, short- and long-term. Dr. Hardin is becoming expert in all aspects of breast cancer
diagnosis and treatment so that she can fulfill a future leadership role in the breast cancer field. We
look forward to seeing where she establishes her practice to support newly-diagnosed patients,
including indigent women. She attended the 2012 Ride for Life-Dancing Horse Challenge to
provide an update of where she will apply this newly-learned knowledge.
Funds from the 2014-2015 Ride for Life supported training for breast surgical oncology fellow Maureen O’Donnell. She will be attending the event this year to share with everyone what she has learned and how much she has benefited through this multidisciplinary breast cancer physician education program. Funds were also used to support quality of life research, focusing on the specific needs of breast cancer survivors battling long-term side effects. Some funds also will support breast cancer survivorship educational programs for patients.
Through the Johns Hopkins Breast Center and the tireless work and contributions of so many who support the Ride for Life—through rider sponsorship donations, to our ever important sponsors, individual donors, our vendors and our raffle donors—we all make a difference!