Last August, Pat Waitz was diagnosed with breast cancer. A retired pharmaceutical sales representative, Pat was familiar with Cooper’s state-of-the-art services, and turned to The Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center at Cooper Cancer Institute for her treatment.
As she battled against the breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes, Pat worried about the health of her daughters, Rachel Taylor and Stacy Henry.
With their mother’s recent diagnosis, knowledge of their paternal grandmother’s cancer history and their Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, Rachel and Stacy were encouraged to consider genetic testing.
Fortunately, Stacy tested negative for the BRCA2 gene mutation. However, at age 31, Rachel tested positive for the gene mutation, which meant she had an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. In fact, Pat had tested negative. Thus, Rachel’s gene mutation was paternally linked.
“I felt overwhelming shock,” Rachel remembers. “You put yourself in my shoes, you feel like you have no option.”
Still, Rachel sought options. She turned to the counsel of her family, spoke to previous patients and consulted with multiple experts and physicians, including her mom’s surgeon at Cooper, Dr. Kristin Brill, Program Director of The Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center. She made the decision to undergo a preventative double mastectomy at Cooper in May.
Inspired by both Rachel and Pat’s courage, Jennifer Fulton, a colleague of Rachel’s, reached out to The Cooper Foundation to establish the Rachel Taylor and Pat Waitz Fund and asked the staff of Florence Township School District to contribute to the fund.
“I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate Rachel and Pat, and to raise an awareness of personal health care decision making,” Jennifer said.
Under Jennifer’s leadership, the Florence Township School District raised $1,800. Earlier this summer, Jennifer, Rachel and Pat presented the check to Susan Bass Levin, President and CEO of The Cooper Foundation.
“This is an incredible statement of love and support,” said Susan Bass Levin, President and CEO of The Cooper Foundation. “The Hebrew word for 18 is Chai, which also means Life. So giving the gift of $1,800 is a Gift of Life.”
Proceeds will benefit the Pink Roses Teal Magnolias Fund, which supports women in their fight against breast and gynecological cancer by funding research and clinical programs at Cooper Cancer Institute.
Today, Pat is winning the fight against breast cancer. This year, she is serving on the host committee and is a table captain for the Pink Roses Teal Magnolias Brunch on Sunday, October 27. Rachel continues to educate others about prevention as she recovers from her surgeries. Both feel immense gratitude for the Florence Township School District’s support and the care they received at Cooper.
“I had faith in Cooper,” Pat said. “From the physicians to nurses, we have been impressed with everyone.”
To contribute to the Pink Roses Teal Magnolias Fund in honor of Rachel Taylor and Pat Waitz, please call The Cooper Foundation at 856-342-2222. To purchase tickets for the Pink Roses Teal Magnolias Brunch, sponsor the event, purchase an ad and buy raffle tickets, visit cooperhealth.org/pinkandteal.