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Helping women through

Fell still leads breast cancer group after 15 years; it's more than just a job

Fell still leads breast cancer group after 15 years; it's more than just a job

February 09, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

When Joan Fell looks at the calendar, she knows it has been 15 years since she came on board as the first executive director of Y-Me, a fledgling agency for breast cancer patients and survivors.

But she said it doesn't seem that long because her job is so much more than just a job.

"It goes with you wherever you go - friends, church members ... even my sister calls from the Midwest and she has a friend," Fell said. "People are concerned."

Now the agency is Breast Cancer Awareness of the Cumberland Valley and Fell said it has never been stronger in its mission.

"I saw an advertisement in 1992 and I applied," Fell said. Then a stay-at-home mom with two children in elementary school, she was looking for a part-time job.

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More than just a job, Fell thought this would be ideal for her since she had had breast cancer and would then have a link to the women the agency was serving.

"It was just me and a board of directors then," Fell said, noting that Y-Me was at 622 Potomac Ave. when she was hired. Two women, Brenda Rosenthal and Karen Kulpinski, were co-presidents when the agency began its work in 1989.

"They met in Brenda's kitchen the first two years," Fell said. After the agency got rolling, the ad was run looking for an executive director.

In February 1992, Fell bought furniture and started setting up the office. By March 1, she was ready - and that was 15 years ago.

The office is now in Suite 101 at the E.J. Fennel Professional Center, 324 E. Antietam St.

Thousands of women have come through the agency and benefited from the programs as they battle their disease. "No one has to go through breast cancer alone," Fell said.

The agency is always expanding to meet new needs while keeping the traditional programs strong and funded.

Fell said a special needs program to help breast cancer patients pay their rent and utilities while they are unable to work is one of the new quests but the agency is having trouble getting it off the ground.

"We have four major fundraisers a year," Fell said. Coming up in May are the Purse-On to Person benefit and the BCA-CV golf tournament.

Then in the fall, Reaching for the Moon will be held at Milestone Farm in Williamsport. Step 'N Stride is also planned for the fall.

"I have met some amazing people over the years," she said. "They are warm, generous and giving."

Then there are the brave patients whom Fell said tug at her heartstrings as they battle the disease. "And we do lose some," she said.

Working with her in the office is Janet Lung, community liaison, and like Fell, a breast cancer survivor.

There are gifts and pins and other items - mostly all pink - in the waiting room. Wigs and prostheses are also available, Fell said.

"The smile after a fitting is always very nice to see," she said.

Married, Fell, 55, said she enjoys knitting, reading and gardening when she isn't working.

For more information on Breast Cancer Awareness of the Cumberland Valley Inc., call 301-791-5843.

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