As City Hall was illuminated in a pink glow Wednesday night, one of the workers inside the building on West Fourth and Hepburn streets joined others recognizing the impact breast cancer had on lives.
Christy Haberstroh, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana's executive assistant, is battling treatable but incurable breast cancer that has spread into her liver and bones.
She isn't alone as an estimated 226,870 new cases of breast cancer are expected to occur among women in the U.S. during this year, and about 2,190 cases are expected in men, according to the American Cancer Society.
Christy Haberstroh hugs her daughter Colleen Haberstroh, and grandson, Delante Haberstroh, 3, while Colleen tells her mom, “I love you.”
Locally, the number of breast cancer patients diagnosed and treated at Kathryn Candor Lundy Breast Health Center at Divine Providence Hospital in 2010 was 209. In 2009, that number was 203, said Tracie Witter, director of marketing and corporate communications at Susquehanna Health. This year's number of cases diagnosed and treated were not completed and therefore unavailable.
As of 2010, the average number of women diagnosed each year in Lycoming County with breast cancer was 89, said Jan Ulmer, health initiatives director of the central region of the American Cancer Society. "That is the average taken in a study over five years," she said of the statistics provided to her by the state Department of Health.
As for surrounding counties, the numbers for women diagnosed with breast cancer as of 2010: Bradford County, 53; Clinton County, 30; Northumberland County, 76; Tioga County, 37; Sullivan County, 6; and Union County, 28.
About 2 to 3 percent of the total breast cancer cases are men, Ulmer said.
For Haberstroh, the battle against the disease began long before 2010. Her struggle started eight years ago when she fell ill while employed at Liberty Mutual Insurance.
"To tell you, honestly, back then I didn't think it was a big deal," she said.
Following removal of the lump through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Haberstroh began to see favorable results and lived as though she were free of cancer until this past winter when what she believed to be bronchitis was not that.
"I had pain in my ribs," she said.
She began to take oral chemotherapy but the side effects were unbearable. Her treatment was switched to intravenous chemotherapy, but she continues to suffer effects of the treatment, included loss of hair, bouts of nausea and generalized weakness.
She credits the medical professionals at Susquehanna Health for keeping her alive.
"Dr. Warren Robinson, medical oncology director, is wonderful," she said.
She has begun to eat healthier, including adding fresh fruits and vegetables in her diet and limiting her intake of red meat.
Today, Haberstroh works seven hours a day and tries to get into the office five days.
"I'm back to full-time," she said, noting how she's gained mental and physical tenacity in dealing with the disease and that working occupies her mind.
"I think the most wonderful part of this," she said, tearing up, "is what I have discovered in others."
Emerging in her time of need has been a collective of friends, some of whom she calls her "sisterhood."
"I love these women," she said, pointing to a framed photograph next to her desk with Becky Lundy, Gina Foresman, Paulette Noviello, Bonnie Katz, Faith Smith and Michelle Casale.
Haberstroh said staff at the hospital sent her cards wishing her well.
Strangers visiting the office have learned about her battle and offered immediate support and expression of sympathy.
"People with cancer sometimes just need a hug," she said. "Sometimes, you just want to hear someone ask, 'How are you,' " she said. "That means everything."
Every day, many of the city employees stop by to see how she's doing. Over the summer yard sales, a musical concert and a golf tournament were held for Haberstroh, with most of the proceeds helping her to pay medical bills and expenses incurred by cancer survivors.
"I have insurance but the co-pay is high," she said. "Eating more fruits and vegetables is more expensive."
The sisterhood has chipped in to do house chores and have driven her places.
Campana considered Haberstroh to be as one of his own family.
He's visited her during her chemotherapy treatments and when she's feeling ill.
"How many bosses would do that?" Haberstroh asked.
Haberstroh also gives credit to her strong and faithful family.
Strength, she said, resonates from inner-self, faith in God and in the kindness of others.
Asked one of her most pressing needs and wishes.
Of course, it was to recover and be healed of cancer, but then she thought about the question a bit before answering: "I want to take my family on a Disney Cruise," she said, tearing up. "That's what I want the most."