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Many individuals in our community have a story to share, a dream to for fill, an idea that helps others. Over the years the Huntington Community and beyond has benefited from many voices. Pederson-Krag, LIAAC, Cinema Arts, IMAC, Heckscher Museum, Little Shelter, the Huntington Station Enrichment Center and so many more. Not-For-Profits make our community a better place to live and raise a family. Visit, support, encourage participation in the Not-For-Profit Community. Keep in mind, what would any community "look like" if organizations such as these didn't exist?


Setting An Example For All To Follow

HBCAC’s Karen Miller strives to educate,
empower Huntington residents in the fight against cancer
By Brian Ferry
bferry@longislandernews.com

Late last week, Karen Miller received a phone call that she’d been hoping to get for a few days. Her medical practitioner informed her that the lump that they had found in her was not cancerous. For Miller, it meant that she could continue to go on with life as usual.

“It’s immensely stressful,” Miller said of the days-long wait period between when tests are first administered, the results are passed along through a number of specialists, forwarded to the primary care physician, and finally disclosed to the patient – or as Miller calls herself, the healthcare consumer.

“I don’t think I’m out of the woods.”

Miller’s body does not contain any cancerous tumors. But it once did, and she says that she’ll never be cancer-free. Still she presses on.

Miller, like many in the town of Huntington, have taken it upon themselves to work independently, or form a not-forprofit agency with concerned friends, family members and like-minded individuals, to make a difference in the town of Huntington. In Miller’s case, her agencies are the Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition and Prevention Is The Cure, two groups that help both those who survive cancer and those who have never been afflicted with the disease.

It was the day before Thanksgiving, 1987. Miller, who was working as an interior designer, received a call at home from her doctor as she was preparing a feast for her extended family. He told her that recent test results indicated she had breast cancer.

“I was a marathon runner and a clean machine, so I didn’t fall into the risk category. ‘They’re going to discover they made a mistake,’” she recalled thinking.

Putting it behind her for the time being, she said she pressed on with the dinner arrangements, telling her husband and deciding right away that she would get a second opinion. Cancer didn’t run in her family, so she thought the likelihood was good that the test results were erroneous. She would later find out that the cancer was real, and that she was genetically predisposed to it.

Miller got a mastectomy and admitted herself to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. While recovering there, without the use of chemotherapy or any other “poison chemical therapy” as she refers to them, she met women from all across the county who were battling the same disease who, in some cases, were much worse off than she was.

“I’m not a victim and I’m not a survivor – it’s something that makes us all equal, which is a good thing,” she said. As she recovered, it hardened her determination that something productive must be done. Men and women had to be educated about the disease, she thought, because little was known at the time and most people didn’t get themselves checked for cancer. HBCAC was formed in 1989.

“Into our second year we discovered that we had a message that we wanted to provide to the rest of the world,” she said. “We were the faces of a disease that nobody wants to talk about – and that is unacceptable.”

Miller feels that the proper message was obscured for years and maintains to this day that early detection is not the message and that the medical industry belongs reinforcing the act of active prevention.

At the turn of the century, Miller founded another organization that works side-by-side with HBCAC. Many recognize Prevention is the Cure as the group that hosts Huntington’s annual breast cancer walk, but the two groups are beginning to be recognized nationally as one-of-a-kind non-profits that are helping shape the anti-cancer movement and influence doctors and researchers alike.

“Finally, about six years ago, I think that we turned a corner because we really got the word out to question that single path that the industry was guiding us towards,” Miller said. “Prevention has to have its own path, its own focus, and that is actually the only path that provides you with some pro-activity

“We are a reactive society and we have to get people engaged, not in doom and gloom, but to provide education and a venue for people to come so they understand more and they become proactive in their health,” she said. “If we bring focus to something, the research will come, we will know more about it, and we will know what we can do to minimize these risks ... and so our children won’t face the diseases we’ve faced over the years.”

As she explained, it is the goal of her and the organizations she captains to make individuals active in their healthcare – to understand that they are as vital a part in the “healthcare team” as the doctors, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies. Healthcare consumers should choose their healthcare provider carefully, expect them to provide information in a short period of time and in a language that they can understand, and to explore the many ways that their experiences can be valuable to the world’s campaign against cancer.

“We are definitely nationally recognized right here locally … as having that message clear and delivered, and we have that seat at the table,” Miller said.

But she feels that this couldn’t have been done without an accepting and supportive community, as well as open-minded, productive government. These people have helped Miller, HBCAC and Prevention is the Cure to complete a 10-year cancer mapping project that provides evidence of geographical locations, as well as environmental and industrial hot spots that can be investigated for their possible ties to cancer clusters on Long Island.

“That’s what a proactive health organization is about,” she said. “We try to attract people who don’t come to us only in a reactive state. We offer opportunities to come to us and be proactive. I think that’s what sets us apart in the arena of health.”

Vic Skolnik recalled hosting a film and lecture about breast cancer with Miller at his Cinema Arts Center some time ago. He remembered the panel of officials who were “peppered” with questions from the audience and looks back on it as a huge success. “It was like having a data bank in front of you,” Skolnik said. “It went on for quite a time and it was one of the most successful things [we’ve done].

“I don’t think you get many of those kinds of people who dedicate their lives [to a cause].”

Miller said that she lives her life to the fullest every day. Having long since abandoned interior design, cancer prevention and education is now all she works on. “Seven days a week, a million hours, it’s all about health,” she said.

“Make your health part of your life.”

 

 

 

 

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Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition
PO Box 1446, Huntington, NY 11743
746 NEW YORK AVENUE, HUNTINGTON NY 11743 - Office Location
Telephone: 631.547.1518 Fax: 631.547.1520
E Mail: friends@hbcac.org  

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