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Journalist Linda Ellerbee will speak about breast cancer

By LINDA GIBSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 30, 2000


TAMPA -- Journalist, author and television producer Linda Ellerbee comes to town next week to speak about breast cancer, and she promises it won't be depressing.

She knows that women who haven't had the disease may not be eager to attend a talk about surviving it. But she hopes they'll come anyway.

"Coming to hear about breast cancer does not mean you get it," she said.

She'll be the featured speaker Monday at a fundraising luncheon for the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation. Money raised by the event will go toward a new breast center at St. Joseph's Women's Hospital.

Diagnosed in February 1992, Ellerbee will talk about her life since then and about what women can do if they get breast cancer.

Ellerbee underwent a double mastectomy and chemotherapy, but not before researching doctors and treatments. She recommends that every woman take the same careful approach and says women don't need to panic if breast cancer is discovered.

"It's not an emergency diagnosis," she said. "You have time to visit more than one doctor, get more than one opinion, read, talk about options for treatment. Take several weeks."

One of every three cancer diagnoses made in this country is for breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. In 1997, more than 180,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer, and 43,000 died of it. Those are the most recent figures available.

Ellerbee focuses on life after breast cancer, and she uses herself as an example.

When reached by telephone last week, Ellerbee was at a vacation house in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. Since her cancer treatment ended, the children's TV news show she writes and produces, Nick News, has become one of the most popular children's television shows of any kind.

"Breast cancer doesn't mean the end of the world," she said. "My life has never been as good. I've never been as healthy."

She'll urge the women in the audience, should they get breast cancer, to speak up and take an activerole in their treatment.

"There are lots of choices to be made for treatment," she said. "You can just turn it over to a doctor to figure out or you can participate. The time from diagnosis to treatment is really the worst time. You feel as though your body has betrayed you, and the unknown is frightening."

Ellerbee will speak at the luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Westshore. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The new center that will benefit from the luncheon is being built on the first floor of St. Joseph's Women's Hospital and will offer some basic breast-care procedures, such as mammography.

Its main function will be as a resource for information about breast health and breast disease and treatment. A coordinator will answer questions and help cut through red tape to get appointments quickly with any doctors or specialists a woman might need.

For information, call the St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation at (813) 872-5645.

- Linda Gibson can be reached at (813) 226-3382 or gibson@sptimes.com.

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