First Lady Glenna Fletcher's Communications Office
First Lady Glenna Fletcher, Former Jockey Patti Cooksey Host Breast Cancer Awareness Event

Press Release Date:  Tuesday, October 10, 2006  
Contact Information:  Jodi Whitaker

Early detection, treatment encouraged to increase survival rates

FRANKFORT, Ky. – As the second-winningest female jockey in history, P.J. “Patti” Cooksey never feared the speed and power of the Thoroughbreds she rode. She was undaunted by racing in sub-zero weather or the concussions and broken bones she suffered.  Breast cancer, however, proved to be a greater challenge than any she faced in her racing career.

“Beating male jockeys was easy,” Cooksey said.  “Beating breast cancer was hard.  Finding a cure is one race we have to win.”

Cooksey was the featured speaker at a breast cancer awareness event hosted today by First Lady Glenna Fletcher on the grounds of the state Capitol.  Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Mark D. Birdwhistell also addressed the crowd of breast cancer survivors, health care providers, women’s health advocates and others gathered at the floral clock, which is decorated with a large pink ribbon throughout October in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001, Cooksey underwent successful surgery and intensive treatment, returning to racing in June 2002.  She retired from competitive horse racing in May 2004.  Cooksey attributes her quick and sustained recovery to early detection and treatment and continued regular screenings.

Today’s observance was part of the First Lady’s statewide breast cancer awareness campaign and coincided with the first “Wear Pink to Work Day,” also instituted by Mrs. Fletcher.

Among ongoing activities designed to raise awareness of breast cancer and emphasize the importance of regular screening, Mrs. Fletcher sends mammography reminders to women ages 65-69 during their birthday month.  More than 140,000 women have received birthday reminders since the program began.

“I’ve received many notes and cards from women all across the state thanking me for the reminder,” said Mrs. Fletcher. “My favorite response, was, ‘Thank you for the memo to get my mammo. I did!’”

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3,000 women in Kentucky will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year for the first time and more than 600 will die from this often treatable disease.

Mrs. Fletcher said she and Governor Ernie Fletcher are committed to promoting breast cancer awareness as part of the Get Healthy Kentucky! initiative to improve the quality of life and health of Kentuckians through an emphasis on wellness and disease prevention.

One program in this initiative provided free mammograms during a three-day period in September to nearly 70 women in eastern Kentucky counties where the breast cancer mortality rate is especially high.  The program is administered and funded by the Division of Medicaid Services and the Division of Women’s Physical and Mental Health in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Mrs. Fletcher recounted that one woman who received a mammogram through the program hadn’t been screened in more than eight years because she could not afford the test, despite being a breast cancer survivor, which significantly increases a woman’s risk.

“This is exactly why we have created programs like this,” Mrs. Fletcher said.  “This story and the stories of all the women who received mammograms from the mobile units in September all have the same goal - a happy ending.”