Breast cancer hits home for local dental office

Published 7:04 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2017

CHOCOWINITY — Statistics show 3 in 10 women will have breast cancer in their lifetime, and for Angie Rhodes’ dental office in Chocowinity, those statistics are a reality.

That’s why the office was bathed in pink during the month of October. It’s a show of support for breast cancer survivors, and it’s also sign of hope.

Hanne Lassen, a seven-year survivor, battled breast cancer, a mastectomy and the devastating side effects of chemotherapy. Michelle Black pushed through a mastectomy, reconstructive surgery and a hysterectomy — all within a year at the age of 35. She is a five-year survivor.

“We had three team members who were going through treatment within about a two-year period, and so it became something that was more than just a national statistic. It was living out here in our office,” Rhodes explained. “As part of our support for them, we decided to make October a big deal around here.”

Rhodes said the idea for an office “pink out” is threefold: a way to support and celebrate survivors; a way to educate patients and the general public; and a way to empower women to fight against the disease.

There’s a pink Christmas tree in the waiting area and bracelets at the front desk. Pink décor lines the walls. A photo booth area encourages the patients to get involved. Lassen’s and Black’s work stations are decorated with a seven and five balloon, respectively, to honor their victory.

“We always try to build relationships with our patients, but nothing warms my heart more to hear Hanne and Michelle talking with someone who may be waiting on a biopsy, or who has just received their diagnosis or are going through treatments — sharing war stories,” Rhodes said.

In a little nook is Mrs. Norma’s Toy Corner, dedicated to the office’s third cancer warrior, Norma Caton, who passed away in March 2016.

“She was a warrior, that’s for sure,” Rhodes recalled. Caton loved to order toys for the office’s younger patients, so her coworkers felt the Toy Corner was a good way to honor her memory.

Lassen said she could not have battled and beat the disease without her support system at home and at work.

“The chemo was the one that I thought was going to kill me. You know it’s killing something,” Lassen said. “It’s amazing. You feel so bad. You can’t explain how bad you feel, and suddenly you feel so good. … Now, it’s like it never happened.”

For patient Lois Rabb, it was three rounds of breast cancer and uterine cancer over the course of 14 years. In 2010, she and her late husband battled cancer at the same time.

Rabb has been through a lot, but she said she was lucky to never have her cancer spread into the lymph nodes. Being around fellow survivors helps, as well.

“Being able to come here … and seeing all this pink and stuff. It just, you know, that just gives you a lot of hope, too,” Rabb said of coming to the dental office. “It couldn’t be any better because some people don’t have the good outcome.”

Lassen agreed. “I’m just happy I’m here. You know, I have a good life,” she said.

WOMEN WARRIORS: These women warriors are all breast cancer survivors. Michelle Black (right) is a five-year survivor, and her coworker Hanne Lassen (center) is a seven-year survivor. Black is holding a photograph of the late Norma Caton, who also worked at the dental office. Lois Rabb is a patient there.

TWIST ON CHRISTMAS: Angie Rhodes’ dental office was decked out in pink decor during the month of October.

IN MEMORY: Mrs. Norma’s Toy Corner was created in honor of the late Norma Caton, who passed away from cancer in March 2016.