Twelve percent of American women will suffer from breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. That’s one in eight.
Though modern treatment has improved the survival rate of most patients to better than 70 percent in the worst cases and near 100 percent in the best cases, the affliction still takes its toll on those diagnosed, and their loved ones.
Now, as the country celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month this month, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino once again rolled out its support for those affected by cancer by hosting events such as their annual Battle of the Bras, and by raising money for cancer research.
However, Harrah’s does more than just support the greater cause, cancer survivor and casino employee Paula “Princess” Powers said.
With nearly 30 percent of the casino’s employees having been diagnosed with cancer at one point or the other, she said, there is a unique network to tap into. Often times, relying on close family and friends as your sole support system can be trying.
“Family is not your [main] support system,” Powers said. “They are, but it’s probably harder on them than it is on you.”
That’s why she and so many others offer support at work, she said.
Powers has been a Harrah’s employee for roughly 10 years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012, one week before Thanksgiving. Only six months later, in April 2013, she was declared to be in remission, but that wasn’t the end of it for her, she said.
Now she helps wherever she can.
Not only does the casino itself provide help to the employees through their collective support, but it also sometimes helps minimize the financial fallout that comes with a cancer diagnosis.
Per their website, the Harrah’s Employee Assistance Relief Trust, or HEART fund, “is designed to provide financial assistance to team members who face an unforeseen crisis, which results in financial hardship.”
One of the recipients of the HEART fund, casino employee Terri Robinson, said the program quickly provided financial assistance that helped her afford the costly drugs used to treat cancer.
“I was told to apply, and it was like that day, or the next morning that I had [their] help,” Robinson said. “In my case, it helped with medical bills and helped start my chemo treatment again.”
Robinson has been a Harrah’s employee for just over three years. Less than a year after coming on board in 2015, she said, she was diagnosed. In February of this year she was finally declared to be in remission.
Having access to a great support network among her co-workers, and surprisingly even some of the guests, has helped tremendously, she said.
“One day, out of the blue, [a guest] asked if I was a survivor, and this was partially covered,” Robinson said as she pointed at the pink ribbon and butterfly tattoo she has on her forearm. “It’s just amazing, the support.”
As of the publication of this article, Robinson was awaiting the result of another test which could unfortunately show her cancer has returned. Regardless of the results, she said, she will press on.
“It’s hard to be positive sometimes,” Robinson said. “Princess always asks how I’m doing, or says, ‘Hang in there,’ so when you have somebody else fighting the fight, it helps.”
Both Robinson and Powers said it’s important to not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. But, they said, the No. 1 thing that has helped them was staying positive.
“You have to stay positive,” Powers said. “The slightest amount of negativity and you could fall off.”