BOROUGH PARK — It was a flag-raising for a good cause as Maimonides Medical Center recognized National Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a flag-raising ceremony on Friday, Oct. 4 outside the Maimonides Breast Center Eisenstadt Administration Building, 4802 10th Avenue.
Executive Vice-President and COO Michael Antoniades welcomed guests to the ceremony. “In this day and age, with all the advancements, we still have a small number of loved ones that we lose to breast cancer. In New York, there are approximately 15,000 new cases every year,” said Antoniades. “This is a big deal. Period. It has been at the forefront for many years and the numbers continue to be staggering despite all the amazing efforts being made.”
He explained that battling cancer was what the Maimonides Breast Cancer Center does every day. “We have built over the years a phenomenal team of specialists, from physicians, to radiologists, to ancillary support, to our nurses, to our professionals,” Antoniades said. “We’ve built an organization to care for the folks in this community and specifically about breast cancer.”
Antoniades called fighting cancer a “battle that never stops,” and said that his team at Maimonides has brought cancer care up to the highest level that can be provided. “Today, as we raise the flag, we want to acknowledge all of the women and men who have bravely fought breast cancer,” he said.
Patrick Borgen, chair of the Department of Surgery and director of the Brooklyn Cancer Program, explained that military analogies are often used to talk about the fight against breast cancer. “It couldn’t be more appropriate if you look at the number of American women who lost their life to breast cancer from 2000 to 2010, one decade, that’s more than all of the American soldiers we lost in all of the wars we’ve ever fought combined in just 10 years,” said Borgen.
“So it’s perfectly appropriate to use military wartime analogy,” he went on.
“The good news is, I like to think of breast cancer as the great American tragedy and the great American victory,” he said, adding that the death rate from breast cancer since 1990 has almost fallen by half and it continues to decline.
Dr. Donna-Marie Manasseh, director of the breast surgical program, offered some sobering statistics amidst the hope. “Since we raised the flag last year, over 250,000 women were diagnosed with the disease,” said Manasseh. “Over 46,000 women and men have lost their lives to the disease. But since we raised the flag last year, a number of therapies have been developed that allow us to extend the lives of women well beyond what we even thought was possible just a few short years ago.”
Manasseh introduced Dr. Christina Giuliano, director of breast imaging, as her partner in the fight against breast cancer. “It’s all about awareness and seven years ago we were the first breast imaging center for all of Brooklyn,” said Giuliano. “We raised the bar for everyone.”
Antoniades introduced breast cancer survivor and 2019 Pink Runway Model Yolanda Rodriguez as a patient whose strength, indomitable spirit and absolute unwillingness to stop fighting have touched him and so many others. He also called her a soldier on the front lines of breast cancer.
“Six years I’ve been here, still fighting cancer,” said Rodriguez to a loud round of applause. “I got chemo yesterday and I’m here today. Today, I’m standing here, proud for all the women that can’t be here,” she added.