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Singer Melissa Etheridge delights crowd at breast center benefit

Friday, June 17, 2016

Rose Luncheon

At the 2016 Rose of Hope Luncheon in Fairfield, (l-r) event co-chairs Kelly Scinto and Donna Twist, keynote speaker Melissa Etheridge, and event co-chair Linda Blackwell.

Nearly 600 people attended the June 14 Rose of Hope Luncheon in Fairfield for Bridgeport Hospital’s Norma Pfriem Breast Center and heard Grammy winning singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge recount her personal breast cancer journey.

After being diagnosed in 2005 and losing her hair to radiation therapy, Etheridge performed a tribute to Janis Joplin at the Grammy Awards ceremony. When she returned to her radiation treatment center the next day, the entire staff stood and applauded her for her courage and willingness to be a role model for other patients.

“When I researched what Norma Pfriem Breast Center does, I said, ‘you bet I’ll be there.’” Etheridge said. “I dreamed of this. One of the most important parts of the breast cancer journey is the support. Then I met you and really saw the care you provide, and found out some of you (the breast center team) have been through this experience. When it changes your life so much, the empathy is there. The only way we learn is when we teach and when we help.”

Etheridge brought the audience to its feet with a live performance of “I Run for Life.” Proceeds from this year’s luncheon are still being tallied but center Executive Director Donna Twist said she expects the amount to top last year’s record $524,000.

Etheridge also took a moment to reflect on the June 12 Orlando, Florida, nightclub shootings. “You’re just grateful you didn’t know someone or never went through that in your life,” Etheridge said. “You find out that the shooter is somebody who couldn’t face his own truth, who hated himself so much he had to kill other people. That’s the kind of pain we as humanity need to be aware of and that’s the kind of pain we really need to heal.”

Real estate executive Robert D. Scinto of Fairfield received this year’s Rose of Hope Award at the luncheon for outstanding support of the breast center.

“Bob has been a friend and supporter our inception,” said Twist. “Fifteen years ago, he made space for us in one of the buildings he owns through his real estate company. He was taken by the center’s mission to be a place where women could get help regardless of their financial situation. Since then, he, his family and staff have contributed their time and expertise to the center. His reward, he says, is hearing the testimony of people who, if it weren’t for the center, would have no hope.”

The audience also heard from breast center patient Grace Simpson of Bridgeport, who was diagnosed with breast cancer after undergoing an examination and biopsy by surgeon Richard Garvey, MD, and referred to medical oncologist Neal Fischbach, MD.

“Dr. Fischbach told me something that would stay with me through my treatment, Simpson said. He said, ‘we will help you get through this. We will give you the best treatment, the best medications and best support along the way.’ From that day on, he changed my whole mindset. These words gave me a positive attitude.”

Simpson underwent breast surgery by Dr. Garvey and breast reconstruction by plastic surgeon Shareef Jandali, MD, and continued her journey through treatment and recovery.

“I felt I was in the right place and this team would pull me through,” Simpson said. “Some days were hard and some days were easier, and some days I thought it would never end. But it did end.”

Joining Fairfield resident Twist as co-chairs of this year’s luncheon were Linda Blackwell, also of Fairfield, president of the breast center advisory board and president’s council,; and Kelly Scinto of Fairfield, the center’s manager of special events and outreach. Special “Giving Hope” chairs Cindy Citrone of Southport, Kim Meier of Westport and Heidi Taylor of Fairfield helped bolster the proceeds with a $25,000 matching gift from an anonymous donor.

For the first time in its 16 years, the annual event was held at the Greenfield Hill residence of Lollo and Josh Samuelson. Merrill Lynch was the lead corporate sponsor of the luncheon. The DeMattia Charitable Foundation was the event sponsor.

Part of Bridgeport Hospital and the Yale New Haven Health, Norma Pfriem Breast Center has served more than 30,000 women and their families since it was established in 1999. One of only 500 sites accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), the center provides a wide range of diagnostic care and treatment at its Bridgeport Hospital, Fairfield and Trumbull locations, including medical oncology, surgical and chemotherapy services, plastic surgery, mammography and radiation therapy, and genetic risk assessment as well as opportunities to participate in clinical trials. The breast center office at 111 Beach Road in Fairfield also provides comprehensive women’s wellness services, including nutrition counseling, massage and Reiki therapy, wig and prosthesis fitting, counseling, yoga, Pilates, naturopathic medicine, and other patient support activities. The center is a member of the prestigious National Consortium of Breast Care Centers. For more information, call 203-255-5300 or visit