Organization offers free support programs for clients
In April 2011, when Jean Mischler discovered a lump in her breast and needed a biopsy, she called the Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas from a list the imaging center gave her to talk about how to pay for the procedure.
"If Ray Anne [Evans] hadn't answered the phone that day when I called, I'm not sure what I would've done after that, if I would have done anything at that time," she said. "I might've waited longer because it was a big step just to make that call in the first place."
Phyllis Rose, director of volunteer services and community relations, said the nonprofit aims to help clients going through breast cancer treatment by offering free support programs. The resource center offers several programs, such as As Sisters, in which volunteers assist with driving clients to treatment, running errands and anything else the client needs.
"What we say is that the ways we help are really as unique as the individuals we see, and so the scope and depth of what we do is really incredible," Rose said.
The nonprofit thrives entirely on donations, grants and fundraising. More than 80 percent of donations and funds go to programs for clients. The center is not affiliated with the Susan G. Komen Foundation but receives a donation from the foundation each year.
"We're really lucky; we have wonderful community support," said Evans, who is the executive director of the center.
The BCRC was founded in 1995 and has five locations in the Austin area, including one at the Cancer Center inside St. David's Georgetown Hospital. The nonprofit has 12 employees, six of whom are patient navigators, or trained professionals who attend seminars and meetings to keep up with what is new in breast cancer treatment and research, Evans said.
"Our navigators are highly trained, have continued education, know the science of breast cancer, and so that's a continuing process," Rose said.
"We believe in training our navigators," Evans said. "We expect them to have a certain level of expertise around the treatment."
Both Evans and Rose are breast cancer survivors. When Rose was diagnosed in 1984, she said she had no supportive community like the BCRC to turn to. When the BCRC opened in 1995, Rose said she found herself constantly volunteering.
"It was the most fulfilling thing I ever did, and so I realized that this is where my heart is. My job [at the time] was not fulfilling, and I made the decision to do something that filled my heart every day. This was it," Rose said.
She said she has volunteered for many of the programs that the center has offered throughout the years, including the help line, which is available for clients to call on weekends and holidays if they need to talk to someone.
Many previous clients come back to volunteer at the center because of the support they received during their cancer treatments, Rose said.
"It's not over when it's over," Evans said.
Shortly after Mischler was diagnosed with cancer, she joined one of the BCRC's support groups for newly diagnosed women that met once a week in the library at the center's location inside the St. David's North Austin Medical Center. The meetings involved meditations and a chance for group members to share their experiences, she said.
Evans was the facilitator of Mischler's support group.
"I've had some one-on-one sessions with Ray Anne, several actually," Mischler said. "The things she's helped me with personally have been instrumental to my well-being. I'm grateful for her."
Although the group was only scheduled for eight weeks, seven of the women in the group have continued to meet monthly.
"We've developed a friendship and a bond that we're going to have forever," Mischler said. "We call each other 'our girls.' We really enjoy our time together."
Mischler continues her relationship with the resource center by volunteering for events such as its annual fundraiser, Art Bra Austin. Locals create bras for breast cancer survivors to model during the fashion show held in the spring.
At the fundraiser in 2011, Mischler said she felt compelled to thank the people who attended the event for supporting the resource center, which in turn is able to help people with cancer.
"If it wasn't for my friends and the help from the BCRC, and the support from both entities, I'm not really sure where I would be," Mischler said.
While in post-recovery, Mischler is working, exercising at the YMCA and riding her motorcycle with Ladies on Wheels, a women's motorcycle club in Austin. She actively participates in the Livestrong program at the YMCA in Austin, a free 12-week fitness program designed to help cancer survivors achieve their health goals, according to the YMCA website.
"That was a dark period, and I'm glad that's all behind me, and I'm on my way to feeling better and getting better and getting work, and being a productive member of society, or at least feeling that way," Mischler said. "It's been a heck of a journey."
Upcoming fundraising events
May 18, 2013 — Art Bra Austin
The Breast Cancer Resource Centers of Texas hosts its annual fundraiser May 18 from 7–11 p.m. at the Austin Music Hall. Breast cancer survivors model handmade bras made by local artists.
The nonprofit is accepting bra submissions for the fundraiser. The deadline to submit a bra for the show is March 1. A panel of professionals in the art and fashion industries will select entries for the runway show, on floor models and in the live and silent auctions.
For more information, visit www.bcrc.org.
Cancer Center inside St. David's Georgetown Hospital, 2000 Scenic Drive, 512-901-6644, www.bcrc.org