iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — For so many Americans, access to high quality and personalized healthcare isn’t always a given. Anika Robinson knows that all too well.
On Nov. 13, 2015, Robinson, 40, got a phone call from her doctor that immediately changed her life.
“I’m just out for the day enjoying my day. And I get this call that there’s a situation, that it’s problematic. And I’m like, ‘What do you mean it’s problematic?'” she said.
The doctor’s reply floored her.
“‘You have breast cancer. And it’s problematic because it’s both breasts,'” she said, recalling the doctor telling her that she had stage 3 breast cancer.
“It was just devastating news. And I said ‘Why would he call me? Why wouldn’t he call me earlier in the day to come in? It’s a Friday night,’” the Bronx resident said.
The doctor was unavailable over the weekend, Robinson said. Facing many unanswered questions, Robinson went online to research treatment centers in her area and she discovered Dr. Gina Villani and the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care in Harlem. Robinson said she immediately found solace in the welcoming environment at the center.
“When I met Dr. Villani and she gave me a hug and told me to step into her office,” Robinson said. “And when she said, ‘You’re going to be all right. You’re going to be cured’ … I just cried.”
Robinson underwent chemotherapy at the center. She is now in remission and is very grateful for the care and treatment she experienced.
“It’s really important to us that when somebody walks in the door, they understand that we’re going to take care of them,” Villani said.
GMA co-anchor Robin Roberts sat down with David Lauren, the executive vice president of the center’s Board of Trustees, to learn more about the Lauren family’s commitment to fighting health disparities and raising awareness about breast cancer research. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.
Lauren said there was a “huge disparity” in cancer treatment between wealthy and poor communities.
Every year, the center receives more than 12,000 patients — 80 percent of whom count on Medicaid or Medicare for their health care needs, according to the center.
Founded in 2003 as a joint venture with the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care was established after a meeting between Ralph Lauren and Dr. Harold Freeman.
“The story that Dr. Freeman tells is he expected to leave and wait for weeks or months for Ralph Lauren to respond. And at the end of the meeting, my dad just turned to him and said, ‘I’m in. What do you need? How much?’ and Dr. Freeman gave him a number, and my father said, ‘Great, we’re going to support it,’ and he has ever since,” David Lauren said.
Today, Ralph Lauren is synonymous with the Pink Pony Fund, the company’s worldwide initiative in the fight against cancer. Sales of products bearing the pink pony logo support programs for screening, early diagnosis, treatment, research and patient navigation.
“When Ralph Lauren started to take the logo and turn it pink, it was the beginning of companies really making it part of their corporate culture. It was the start of what is not commonplace,” David Lauren said. “Today, the goals are to build on that, to really grow the Ralph Lauren Cancer Center into something that the community knows about, and that they trust. But also get involved with cancer all around the world.”
Lauren added that the Ralph Lauren Corporation’s employees and customers also raise money for other international cancer-fighting campaigns across the nation and the world.
“I mean, no matter where you live, cancer is affecting men and women, and children, and families. And so, our goal is to fight it,” Lauren said.
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