Breast cancer awareness supporters sport pink hair

‘I am a survivor’

Mary Lou Warner wears a pink extension in her hair at at meeting of Bosom Buddies, a group of breast cancer survivors, as do many of the members. The group met Monday at Lawrence Presbyterian Manor. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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Breast cancer awareness events

Here are just some of the events that are taking place to celebrate National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. These events benefit Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s oncology and breast centers:

• Stepping Out Against Breast Cancer, 8 p.m. to midnight Oct. 24, Crown Automotive, 3430 Iowa. Tickets cost $35 and may be purchased at the door or the LMH gift shop. Entertainment will be provided by Disco Dick and the Mirror Balls, a costume contest, prizes and refreshments.

• Cork and Barrel is offering 20 percent off cases of wine, and a portion of the proceeds in October will benefit LMH.

• The Eldridge, 701 Mass., has a created a pink martini. For every pink martini ordered, $1 will be donated. On Thursdays, it is half price and every 10th martini sold will be served with a Think Pink crystal pink pendant and silver chain courtesy of Hurst Fine Diamonds.

• The Etc. Shop, 928 Mass., is selling pink pumpkins and donating the proceeds.

• The Fraternal Order of Eagles will have a haunted house Oct. 27-31 at its Sixth Street location, including a children’s matinee from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 31. A portion of the money will be donated.

• Hurst Fine Diamonds, 3140 Iowa, is donating $10 from each “Think Pink” pendant purchase in October.

• Salon Hawk, on the third floor of Kansas Union, is offering pink hair extensions for $10 and all proceeds are being donated.

• Bash Out Breast Cancer, 1 p.m. Friday, Jack Ellena Honda, 2112 W. 29th St. It’s $1 to take two swings at a pink van.

• Kansas volleyball vs. UMKC on Oct. 27. Admission is $3 for fans wearing pink. Centerplate will donate $1 for every soft drink sold during the match.

• Jayhawks for a Cure and Kansas Athletics will feature events throughout the year. Visit for more information.

Three years ago, Lawrence resident Emily Willis learned her best friend might have breast cancer.

“She’s like the toughest woman that I know, and she called me, and she had a lump in her breast, and I watched everything that she went through,” Willis said.

At the time, Willis was 20 years old and her friend was 27.

“It changed her. She was like, ‘I want to have kids. I have all of these things that I haven’t done yet that I want to do,'” Willis said. “And she said, ‘I just don’t feel supported by people my age.'”

That’s when Willis, a hairstylist and owner of Salon Hawk in the Kansas Union at Kansas University, decided to put a pink extension in her hair to show her support.

Her customers took notice, heard the story and then wanted to join the cause.

It turned into a last-minute fundraising effort, and Willis was able to donate $4,200 to Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s oncology and breast centers.

Her effort has grown since then.

Last year, Willis raised $11,500 and it all went to LMH.

“It just kind of picked up a life of its own, and as soon as I started meeting the people and seeing who it actually affected, I think it became a lot more real to me,” she said. “People really experience this, whether you are the daughter or the mother or the friend — we are all affected by it.”

Her friend had a lumpectomy, and since then has started a family. Meanwhile, Willis continues to raise funds because she knows there are many others who will benefit.

Last year, 101 breast cancer cases were diagnosed at LMH.

The proceeds from Salon Hawk will be used at LMH for breast cancer awareness and education materials, mammograms for patients who are underinsured or uninsured, wigs and prosthetics for patients who can’t afford them, as well as equipment and furnishings in the oncology and breast centers.

Willis has met many breast cancer survivors and listened to their stories.

“It’s pretty amazing to see what these people have been through and how much stronger it makes them and how thankful that we should all be,” she said.

She often has “pink parties” where she adds hair extensions for a group of people. Two weeks ago, she was inspired by a group of breast cancer survivors called the Bosom Buddies.

“They all told their stories of survival and what they went through, and there’s still women who are going through it,” Willis said. “They just kind of laugh and joke together about it. It was very touching. It brings you to tears.”

Lawrence resident Mary Lou Warner, 88, is a member of that group and is sporting a pink hair extension. She has survived ovarian cancer and breast cancer twice.

“So I am a survivor,” she said.

She endured a hysterectomy in the late 1960s. Then she had a mastectomy in 1997 and another in 1999 after mammograms detected cancer.

Warner described the Bosom Buddies as a wonderful support group and she hopes her story provides inspiration for others.

“When people are first diagnosed and they find that there’s somebody in that group that’s 88 years old, I hope it gives them some encouragement,” she said.