Rays of Hope Brings 30 Years of Hope to Western Massachusetts

May 16, 2023
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Lucy and KathyFor almost 30 years, they have shown up. Donning pink outfits and cradling a hope and light that cannot be extinguished, supporters of the Rays of Hope Walk & Run Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer have spent almost three decades fighting for the cause.

It all began in 1994 when Lucy Giuggio-Carvalho was diagnosed with breast cancer. “I was recovering from my treatment and wished that there was a centralized space for breast cancer support – someplace to find information, a place to go for care, and research conducted in our own backyard,” shared Lucy, who was at the time working as a case manager in the oncology unit at Baystate Health. “I was grateful for my care at Baystate and knew I’d need an organization to work closely with to make this dream a reality, so I aligned myself with Baystate. The rest is history.”

That history started as a walk with 500 of Lucy’s family members, friends, and friends of friends. Today, the Rays of Hope Walk & Run Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer welcomes more than 20,000 people annually to fight for the cause and raise funds that stay local.

An Idea Sparks a Revolution

In its 29 years, Rays of Hope (ROH) has raised more than $16.6 million dollars, which supports patient care and education, research, and programs created for breast cancer survivors. In addition to the first walk taking place in 1994, another milestone for Baystate Health was the start of multidisciplinary breast programs, now known as the Baystate Breast and Wellness Center and Baystate Health Breast Network.

Dr. Grace Makari-Judson and her son

“We have been able to do so much more to further breast cancer research and support our patients thanks to Rays of Hope,” said Dr. Grace Makari-Judson, Medical Director, D’Amour Center for Cancer Care, Baystate Health; Chair, Baystate Health Breast Network; and Co-director, Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research. “That work continues now.”

These dollars can be seen throughout the community, fast-tracking the implementation of new technologies and treatments.

“Thanks to ROH, in 1996, we were the first in western Massachusetts to offer sentinel lymph node biopsy, a less invasive approach to checking for cancer in lymph nodes,” shared Dr. Makari-Judson. “Through ROH support in 2010, we were the first in New England to offer a surgical technique known as radioactive seed localization to guide more precise, less invasive breast surgery.”

The creation of the Rays of Hope Center for Breast Cancer Research in 2011 has led to more than 1,400 participants donating samples to the ROH Breast Research Registry. The tissue repository, a unique resource reflecting the diversity of our community, has sparked research collaborations and funding to test individual responses to drugs and chemicals.

Moving Forward Together

Lindsey Bubar and her sons at Rays of Hope

As the Rays of Hope Walk & Run Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer gears up for its 30th anniversary on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2023, there is still much work to be done. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer remains the number one newly diagnosed cancer type for women in Massachusetts.

Treatment continues to evolve and each day research is uncovering more about how breast cancer works. However, survivors, which is how Rays of Hope identifies a person from the moment they receive a breast cancer diagnosis, need support along their journey. Rays of Hope plays a big role there, too.

“Having access to Rays of Hope and those people, programs and information just made me feel better taken care of and really part of something special,” said Lindsey Bubar, survivor and 2022-23 Chair of the Rays of Hope Walk & Run Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer. “It reminded me that I wasn’t alone and that I was going to have unlimited support throughout this whole experience.”

We hope you’ll join the fight during this year’s Rays of Hope Walk & Run Toward the Cure of Breast Cancer. You can start fundraising today to help survivors like Lucy, Lindsey, and the thousands of others who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

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