ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - A local organization is up against 15 non-profits across the country in a competition honoring breast cancer awareness month.
The Battle for the Breasts will provide clinics with vouchers for genetic testing for women with a family history of cancer. A mother-daughter duo with one such clinic in Martinsville is in the contest - and they know how important the testing is from personal experience.
Patricia Via said she watched her mother battle breast cancer.
"I saw my mother and other family go through suffering. Actually they were in denial. They didn't reach out, branch out to get help," she explained.
The disease ultimately took Via's mother, but like many other families, it wasn't talked about.
"She didn't reach out. She didn't talk about it. And that's the reason I voice, I speak out. I try to impact people," Via explained.
Patricia started the MLC Cancer Foundation five years ago in honor of her mother, Myrtle Lee Carter. That was just before Patricia's own diagnosis. The foundation works to educate and encourage genetic testing, which can give families information on their cancer risk - empowering them to act.
Via said she wants to put Martinsville on the map with a win in her mother's honor.
"Sharing our story and sharing what we know, we can save lives," Patricia's daughter, Telesa Via said.
Patricia and Telesa were both tested and discovered they carry the gene mutation which puts them at higher risk for developing cancer.
"Once a person has been diagnosed, it doesn't only just affect that person. It affects their family as well," Telesa explained.
The foundation also helps women, especially in Martinsville, where unemployment is high, but cancer rates are highest in the state.
"Sometimes people say 'well I don't have insurance.' Well that's not an excuse. There is money available," Patricia explained.
Voting for the Battle for the Breasts begins Thursday. Visit http://www.mlccancerfoundation.org/ for a link to vote.
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