Pink is the new orange this month.
That is the message Nancy Perillo and Jill Borkowski are spreading through “Pumpkins For the Cure.”
Perillo and Borkowski, of the Danes Home Antique Mall, decided to turn pumpkins pink this fall and raise funds to benefit a local woman and an organization working to end breast cancer.
Throughout October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, those who visit the Danes Home will see pumpkins that have been painted pink and embellished with ribbons and bits of bling.
People may give a donation and choose a pumpkin.
The size of the pumpkin they select will be based on the size of their donation, said Perillo.
At the end of the month, some of the proceeds will be given directly to Kim Nelson, who had a double mastectomy on Sept. 30 following a breast cancer diagnosis.
The rest will be given to the Susan G. Komen fund, the world’s largest breast cancer organization.
“That’s very generous,” said Nelson. “There will be lots of driving back and forth to Oshkosh and Appleton.”
Her plastic surgeon is in Oshkosh, and her breast surgeon is in Appleton. Nelson will be making trips to see both of them for post-operation appointments.
Nelson and her husband, Dean, own Nelson’s Strike Zone.
They have insurance and will be figuring out what is and what is not covered.
Nelson, 43, was diagnosed with breast cancer on Friday, Sept. 13.
“I have a strong family history of breast cancer,” she said.
Her mother passed away at age 34 from breast cancer.
“My mom’s sister and my dad’s sister both had breast cancer,” Nelson said. “They were in their 60s. They survived but passed away from other things.”
As a result, Nelson began having mammograms when she was about 33. Two years ago, Nelson had a biopsy after the radiologist saw a spot when she had her annual mammogram. It was not cancerous.
This year, she went in for her annual mammogram on Sept. 4, at Riverside Medical Center.
“Then, they called me and said there were a couple spots they wanted to take a better look at,” she said.
That took place on Sept. 6, with the radiologist suggesting she have a biopsy done on that area of her left breast because of her strong family history of breast cancer and fact she had a pre-cancerous spot two years earlier.
On Sept. 11, she had a biopsy at Theda Clark Medical Center in Neenah.
“On Friday, the 13th, I got the call, and they said, ‘Yes. It is cancer,’” Nelson said.
Nelson, who always figured it was a “matter of when, not if,” hit the diagnosis head on.
She had a consultation with a breast surgeon on Sept. 16, in Appleton. “She (the surgeon) looked over my history and suggested the removal of the one breast would be my best option,” Nelson said.
The surgeon also suggested Nelson have an MRI of her right breast to see if there was anything there which had not shown on her mammogram.
“There wasn’t anything showing on my right side,” Nelson said.
Due to her family history, she decided to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
“I didn’t want to play the odds,” she said.
The surgery took place on Sept. 30, at Appleton Medical Center.
There was nothing in her lymph nodes.
“Luckily, I don’t have to do chemo or radiation,” she said.
Nelson returned home last Wednesday, Oct. 2.
“Dean’s been great through all of this,” she said.
They have four children – 18-year-old Joseph, 17-year-old Kelsey, 15-year-old Patrick and 11-year-old Samantha.
Nelson is now waiting for the results of her genetic screening.
Ten years ago, it was recommended that she have the screening.
However, at that time, insurance companies were able to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. As a result, Nelson was afraid to have the screening.
Now, with regulations in place to protect those who have pre-existing conditions, she had the screening, and her children will be able to decide whether they need to be screened, once she receives her results.
Nelson is thankful the radiologist saw the tiny spots on her mammogram.
“It wasn’t to the point of a lump you could actually feel,” she said.
She encourages women to have annual mammorgrams, “especially, especially if you have any kind of family history.”
Nelson says she would rather be uncomfortable for the several minutes in takes to have a mammogram and then be alive for years to come.
“It’s definitely worth the time to do it. Have it done,” she said.
The day of her diagnosis was also her last day working part time in the coffee shop at the Wisconsin Veterans Home at King.
“I had just received a full-time job at First National in bookkeeping. I was supposed to start Sept. 16,” Nelson said.
She hopes to still be able to start her new job.
Perillo said Nelson’s diagnosis hits home for the community.
Like Nelson, Perillo has a family history of breast cancer.
“My mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Perillo.
The month of October always brings more awareness to the topic, and Perillo and Borkowski are working together to do that at a local level.
They ordered a total of 90 pumpkins from King Berry.
The first 30 pumpkins were picked up last week.
The Danes Home is located at 301 N. Main St. and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m Sunday. The store is closed on Wednesday.