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Soroptimists of SCV offer comfort

Posted: July 31, 2010 4:42 p.m.
Updated: August 1, 2010 4:30 a.m.

From left to right, Donna Kreutz, Diana Vose, Terry Bucknall, Cheri Fleming, Pam Jaffke, Sharyn Buncick, Mindy Burgess, Susan Handley, Cherie Balousek, Alice O’Hare, Robin Castagnola, Gail Rocco and Sandy Naba on the campus of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

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Learning you have breast cancer is an overwhelmingly fearful — and tearful — experience. But the day you are diagnosed is the day you become a survivor — and connecting with others who have been through the experience is of the utmost importance in helping you get through each day, said Mindy Burgess, RN, breast health educator at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

When Susan Handley, owner and designer of Beijo Bags, donated 35 pink designer bags to Soroptimist International of Santa Clarita Valley, the women devised a “pay it forward” plan to benefit recently diagnosed breast cancer patients at the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center in Valencia.

“We thought a good way to put the bags to use was to fill them with items that a newly diagnosed patient would like to have for comfort,” said Donna Kreutz, Soroptimist and breast cancer survivor.

Recently, Soroptimist members arrived at Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center to present their pink Beijo “comfort bags” filled with goodies to two breast cancer survivors.

One of the most sentimental items that can be found inside these bags is a hand written letter to each diagnosed breast cancer patient.
The letters are written by a Soroptimist International member, who in many cases are a person who has had a personal experience with breast cancer, to offer reassurance to another breast cancer survivor.

“As a breast cancer survivor, I know how important it is to have a great support system,” Kreutz said.

Recipients Robin Castagnola and Cherie Balousek were touched by the gift.

“It’s so wonderful to feel this level of support,” said Balousek. “Everyone has been amazing — the community, the doctors, the nurses, the whole team, and Mindy Burgess, my nurse navigator. She’s made sure I’m never lost or alone in this process.”

Members of Soroptimist International of SCV will continue to present the Beijo bags to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients who are in need of a bit of comfort.

Burgess said she hopes a cure for breast cancer will result in fewer women receiving the comfort bags or needing her support. Until that time, she’s a strong advocate for annual mammograms and monthly breast self-examinations.

“Finding breast cancer in its early stages can make all the difference when it comes to survival,” said Burgess. “Thanks to generous community support, we offer the best technology to detect breast cancer at Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center.”

“I am truly blessed to have the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center in my own backyard. I am proud to say that I am the very first patient ever to have had a mammogram at the Center,” said Soroptimist member Gail Rocco, a 19-year breast cancer survivor. “I continue my yearly visits there, and each time, I am welcomed with open arms, happy hearts and a warm smile from each member of the staff. I say ‘thank you’ for your continued friendship and making my visits pleasant.”

Created through the experiences of breast cancer survivors and designed with a woman’s physical and emotional needs in mind, Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center, a service of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, is designated by the American College of Radiology as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, said Burgess. Located on the hospital’s campus at 23929 McBean Parkway, Suite 101, in Valencia, the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center has its own entrance, a home-like atmosphere and friendly staff. 

Soroptimist International is a worldwide organization for women in management and professions, working to advance human rights and the status of women. The organization currently has more than 90,000 members in more than 3,000 clubs in 124 countries.

To schedule an appointment at the Sheila R. Veloz Breast Imaging Center call (661) 253-8822. For information on Soroptimist International of SCV visit


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