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    A Letter of Thanks from Athena Blackburn

    Athena T. Blackburn

    "I know I am making a difference"

    To the doctors and staff of CPMC,

    Though I hope those of you who have known me over the years already realize how thankful I am for the wonderful care you have given me, I wanted to take this opportunity to put my thoughts in writing so you know how truly grateful I am.

    I still remember the scene vividly. The year was 1999 and I was soon to leave town on a trip overseas. It was a Friday and I happened to notice a lump in my breast. On Monday I saw my doctor and on Tuesday I had a needle biopsy. A few days later, I heard the bad news — it was cancer. So I cancelled my trip, had a lumpectomy and started eight weeks of radiation. During that time I was depressed, but your radiation oncology staff was so incredibly kind. They did everything they could to lift my spirits and keep my mind off what was happening. For instance, I love movies and when the oncologist found out he kept asking me about which films I had seen and what I thought of them. It may seem like a small thing, but it meant a lot to me that he recognized my fear and tried to bring a sense of normalcy to such a stressful situation.

    Throughout the process, I was down, but not overly emotional. Then, in my final week of treatment, they drew a target on the spot where they wanted to focus the radiation to kill the last of the cancerous cells. When I saw that target on my body, I broke down and cried. And of course, the staff was there immediately to offer me comfort and support.

    It was an awful period in my life, but I’m tremendously blessed because my cancer is gone. I realize how lucky I am, which is precisely why I give to CPMC — because I know there are others who are not so fortunate. I donate to other causes, but nothing compares with the gratification I get from knowing I’m helping people who must go through the horror of fighting cancer as I once did.

    Thank you all for the exceptional, compassionate care you have given me and so many others. In particular, I am especially grateful to Dr. Martin Brotman, who has always been available to attend to the needs of my entire family. It was also through his wise guidance that I was made aware of how I could help give something back to those in need. Thanks to him, my contributions to the Medical Center have helped me regain my joie de vivre, because when I make a gift to CPMC, I know I am making a difference. And really, isn’t that what life is all about?

    Gratefully yours,

    Athena T. Blackburn

    An Invaluable Partner

    Over the past 20 years, Athena Blackburn has partnered with CPMC to help cancer patients get more accurate and effective radiation treatments through the Trilogy Radiotherapy System at the Athena T. Blackburn Radiotherapy Suite; to make free or low-cost breast health screenings available to more than 800 women in financial need since 2007; to make faster, less painful biopsies a reality for breast cancer patients; and to bring more accurate digital mammography to the underserved neighborhoods surrounding CPMC’s St. Luke’s Campus in the Mission District.

    Every year, her generosity has a direct impact on the quality of care delivered in more than 11,500 patient visits. We are both fortunate and proud that she has chosen to make such a strong philanthropic investment in our work.

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