When Southcentral Foundation (SCF) Health Educator Charlene Bortz was first asked to drop the puck during an Alaska Aces game, she said she wasn’t nervous. But by the time Oct. 9 rolled around and she was facing an arena full of people, “I had butterflies in my stomach before, but not like this.”
SCF participates annually in the “Paint the Rink Pink” events in honor of breast cancer awareness. As a result, an Aces representative heard about Bortz and her fight with breast cancer.
Bortz began working for SCF in 2005 as administrative support in complementary medicine. During this time, she discovered a lump while performing a monthly breast exam on herself. She met with her doctor, who scheduled her for a mammogram. After a few more tests, Bortz received the news she had breast cancer in her right breast.
“It was like being punched in the stomach,” said Bortz.
The following months and years would find Bortz making agonizing decisions, facing challenges with both sorrow and humor and forming closer bonds with those who went through the journey with her. Facing options of radiation therapy, removal of one breast or removal of both, Bortz and her daughter chose to remove one breast.
Three years later and Bortz is inspiring hundreds of people, dropping a puck onto a rink dyed pink to raise awareness of the disease she so recently conquered. She wore a pink kuspuk made for the occasion, another reminder of the Alaska Native women she champions.
Bortz, of Inupiat and German heritage, was proud to be representing Alaska Native women. “It’s great that it’s 2008 and we’re finally talking about breast cancer. That never used to get talked about.”