Courage Award for cancer named after WUSA 9 anchor

LEESBURG, Va. (WUSA9) -- Tuesday, there will be an exciting honor for WUSA9 anchor Andrea Roane and Buddy Check 9.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation has created an Andrea Roane Courage Award, recognizing WUSA9's two decades of urging prevention of breast cancer through life style changes and for reminding women and men that early detection to fight breast cancer can save lives.

The 2014 Andrea Roane Courage Award will be presented Tuesday morning at INOVA Loudoun Hospital to a very special, courageous woman: Tammy Gray.

Tammy Gray always wanted to work in the science field AND do something to help others. Today, she is a physical therapist at the INOVA Loudoun Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Leesburg, Va.

But for what she does outside the job, her commitment to helping women with breast cancer, her colleagues nominated this "Pillar of Hope" as they call her, for the Andrea Roane Courage Award

Barbara McDonnell, an Oncology Patient Navigator at INOVA Loudoun Hospital, says, "Whatever we've done with breast cancer patients, it's always Tammy somewhere on the fringe and for me, that is impressive."

Tammy's work on behalf of women, specifically younger women, began after her own diagnosis. It was 1998. Tammy was 35, a wife and mother of a 4-year old daughter. Mammograms weren't standard for women in their thirties so it took awhile before she was screened and the cancer spotted.

Tammy says, "I just prayed. Let me be here, let me be there for my daughter."

She had a mastectomy, plus many courses of chemo and radiation. In total, it took a year.

Back then, support groups for younger survivors weren't readily available. Tammy turned to the American Cancer Society's Reach To Recovery. Her volunteer survivor match wasn't exact, but just talking with someone who had been through what she was facing, changed her outlook on life.

"I prayed to God, if you get me through this, please help me through this, I will vow to help any woman I can, and be there for these younger women," recalls Tammy.

Living that vow, Tammy became a Reach To Recovery volunteer. She then helped form the Loudoun Breast Health Network. In 2009, she helped establish New Beginnings. Women in treatment could get FREE wigs, mastectomy bras, and information on a host of community resources.

Then, two years ago, the Pink Assistance Fund was started to offer financial aid to women recently diagnosed or currently in treatment.

Christine Stone, an Oncology Navigator at INOVA Loudoun, says Tammy's efforts have make a huge impact on the community. "From paying bills, helping people get pharmacy drugs they can't afford to pay, paying for groceries...just being empathetic and compassionate helping them though the cancer journey," says Stone.

And Tammy's own journey continues. Recently she tested positive for the BRCA 2 gene mutation. In 2013, she had a preventative hysterectomy and a mastectomy on the other breast, with bilateral reconstruction. The final reconstruction should be finished by the end of this summer.

Tammy says, "We all have a purpose on this earth and I feel like I'm so blessed to have everything I have, why not share it?"

We'll have highlights from the ceremony on our Wednesday morning show.


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