Fairfielder honored by Patriots as 'Community MVP'
Updated 6:49 am, Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Fairfield resident and mother-of-two Katherine Sullivan has never made a game-winning catch in a Superbowl to earn "Most Valuable Player" honors, but she at least knows what it's like to receive an award surrounded by NFL officials, footballs players and media.
Sullivan, a volunteer at the Norma F. Pfriem Breast Care Center's Fairfield office since 2000, was honored recently as a "Community MVP" at Gillette Stadium by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation. She was one of two state residents and one of 16 New Englanders to receive the recognition.
"I was shocked because there are so many women involved at the breast cancer center that do just as much, if not more, than I do," she said.
Allowed to bring two guests to the award presentation, Sullivan brought her mother, Margaret Moran, and her daughter, Amelia, 11, who also volunteers at the center.
Sullivan, a breast cancer survivor, speaks at community organizations to raise awareness, talks to young women about the importance of testing, and addresses fertility and sexuality issues for young women with cancer. She has also helped raise money for the center, which offers all women, regardless of their ability to pay, a breast health program by providing coordinated care through an integrated approach in the community and in the hospital, according to the Community MVP program.
Considered one of the center's most dedicated volunteers, Sullivan is a founding member of its President's Council, a group promotes the center's mission. She has helped the center grow with the addition of the state's first free-standing, community-based breast care center in Fairfield. The Fairfield office at 111 Beach Road provides everything the main site at Bridgeport Hospital, 267 Grant St., provides, except surgery. Services include wig fittings, bra and prosthetic fittings, nutritional counseling, reiki and massage therapy, one-on-one education and counseling, yoga, pilates, plastic surgery, naturopathic medicine and relaxation techniques.
"When I first met Katherine, I had been assigned the daunting task of raising $125,000 in three months to build our new center," said Donna Twist, the center's executive director. "Katherine agreed to be interviewed for an award-winning video about the center which helped us recruit new donors and meet our goal. She also contributed her writing and marketing skills to help produce our first gala journal."
Sullivan was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 35, around the time she and her husband were trying to have children. The cancer was early stage and she was treated successfully at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. A year after her last radiation treatment -- having foregone hormone therapy -- she was pregnant with twins. Soon after, she became a volunteer for the Pfriem Breast Care Center.
"My treatment was state-of-the-art and I heard about this new center opening up in town and I thought, I know what this is supposed to look like, what a world-class treatment center for women should look like, from peach-colored walls to soft music, to the gentle way the staff treats each patient with respect and dignity. I immediately got involved."
Sullivan has done everything from stuffing envelopes to speaking to young women at a symposium held at Sacred Heart University. She said it is essential for younger women to overcome their fears of screening and treatment, especially since young women are getting diagnosed more frequently and "whose cancers are usually more aggressive."
Why the greater frequency?
"That's the million-dollar question," Sullivan said.
There are many theories, but the way to successfully combat a diagnosis is to spot it as early as possible and get it treated.
"With Katherine's help, we have built the largest program of free care in the area, helping all women, regardless of their ability to pay," Twist said.
This year, United Health Care asked Sullivan to serve on a steering committee examining ways to better serve middle- to lower-income families in the state.
"Women are the glue that hold families together," said Sullivan, who added that with economically challenged families, it is even more critical "we make sure that they stay intact."