Updated: December 23, 2013 1:27PM
I attended the third annual “A Pink Tie Affair” under Laini Fluellen Charities Sept. 28 at Ameristar Casino thanks to college buddy and dear friend Danyele Davis, who was a friend of Laini Fluellen, who died four years ago from triple negative breast cancer.
Triple negative breast cancer, or TNBC, is an aggressive form of breast cancer most commonly found in young African-American women. African-American women are roughly two times more likely to have TNBC than white women.
Fluellen first noticed a lump in her breast in January 2006 at age 35 and initially ignored the warning signs, assuming it was a benign cyst like her mother occasionally had. She was also uninsured at the time.
Fluellen then got a job a month later with health insurance, but unfortunately the small lump in her breast tripled in size. A biopsy would later reveal a malignant cancerous tumor that had already spread to her lymph nodes and other parts of her body.
Fluellen fought her TNBC for three years and remained the type of person who helped others, including nine godchildren, three young girls she mentored and family and friends.
After walking the “Pink Carpet” and posing for pictures with Davis, friends and the event’s mistress of ceremonies, Jeanne Sparrow of WCIU-TV, an intimate evening with members of Fluellen’s family, including Laini Fluellen Charities board chairperson and Fluellen’s mother Diane Artis and friends proceeded. It included dinner and a silent auction.
Laini’s brother Nathan Fluellen welcomed all to the Pink Tie Affair by reflecting on how his sister used to wrestle with him as children.
“And she’d always win. It was that type of spirit Laini developed that was in her during her fight with triple negative cancer,” he said.
East Chicago City Clerk Mary Morris Leonard is a 16-year breast cancer survivor. A city clerk for 22 years, she said it was Christmas Eve 16 years ago when she received a letter to return to her doctor after a mammogram and X-ray.
“Even when I got the diagnosis and underwent treatment I was still a wife, mother and cook,” said Leonard, who is married to former East Chicago police chief Walter Leonard.
The guest speaker was Mrs. Indiana 2013 Sandra Zacharias, who is a breast cancer survivor and, she believes, the only pageant winner who has had a double mastectomy.
She was diagnosed in 2010 and was drinking hot cocoa at the Water Tower in Chicago after her doctor’s visit.
“I was with my daughter and when she returned from shopping I told her, but had her promise not to tell her dad yet,” she said. When she revealed it the family grew closer, she said.