By Michele J. Kuhn
FAIR HAVEN – It’s courage and inspiration that Maureen Bay sees when she looks at the faces and into the eyes of women – and men – who have survived breast cancer.
“It’s courageous to show your face,” said Bay, the owner of Gem of an Idea at 740 River Road. “I have had women come in here, even some who have just had a double mastectomy, and they have such a great attitude… They are upbeat and amazing.
“In my opinion, every woman who has gone through breast cancer treatment is indeed beautiful in her own way,” Bay said. “She emerges from treatment stronger, more hopeful, more determined, more loving, more graceful, more compassionate… all of which can be depicted in her eyes and in her smile.”
Bay has assembled a collection of 30 photos of survivors to showcase those qualities. She is using them for a window display at her jewelry store in celebration of “Pink Haven,” part of Riverview Medical Center’s sixth Annual Paint the Town Pink breast cancer awareness campaign.
“It is a tribute to women who have been through and survived the experience of breast cancer,” she said.
The Paint the Town Pink event merges a breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment campaign with a fundraising component. Donations to the Pink Fund will provide free screenings at the Women’s Center at Riverview for uninsured and underserved women in the community.
The campaign is a collaboration of Riverview Medical Center, Red Bank, and surrounding communities. This year eight towns are participating: Red Bank (Pink Bank), Little Silver (Little Pink), Rumson (Pinkson), Holmdel (Pinkdel), Atlantic Highlands (Atlantic Pinklands), Monmouth Beach (Pink Beach), Shrewsbury (Pinkbury) and Fair Haven (Pink Haven).
The photos Bay has gathered show women at various stages of life. Some photographs were professionally taken, others were snapshots taken by family or friends.
Among the glossy prints hanging in the shop is one of a woman with her toddler grandchild. Others show a woman smiling as she stands next to her physician and two sisters who have survived breast cancer. A banner proclaiming “Pink Haven, creating the beautiful faces of survival” is part of the display.
Bay has been sending emails to friends and clients looking for photos of survivors. Those people in turn have been sending messages to their friends and family. That networking resulted in photos coming from near and far. Though she hoped to have photographs of men, none were forwarded to her.
Women whose photos appear in the window are not identified, but she knows that when it comes to the faces of local women, “a lot of people may know these people.
“Maybe it will encourage them to go for their annual mammogram. Maybe it will help (Riverview) raise more money to ensure women can get mammograms,” Bay said.
The shop owner tracked down pink clothespins and a few dozen pink wire hangers with the help of her dry cleaner. The white paper hanger covers that usually have advertising on them are printed instead in bright pink lettering with such words as “hope,” “courage” and “triumph.” They are being used to hang the photos.
“I wanted this to be inspirational,” she said. “I wanted this to be empowering.”
It is with passion and enthusiasm that Bay speaks about the window design and her participation in the campaign. She hopes the effort will offer an opportunity for people to talk about breast cancer and for the need for women, age 40 and older, to get their annual screenings.
“Creating a dialogue is important,’’ she said. “I’m excited by this.”
This is the second year Bay has decorated her window for “Pink Haven.” Last year’s design won best dressed window, something of which she is proud.
The photos are expected to be on display at Gem of an Idea for about two weeks.