Leading Breast Cancer Advocate Launches Book Chronicling One Woman’s Crusade to Bring About Awareness

“Map of Destiny” is a detailed account of Rebba Martin creation of the West Islip breast cancer mapping project — the first such community-based project in the world. Rebba Martin attempt to seek a correlation between environmental factors and clusters of the disease, told against the backdrop of her arduous and courageous battle against breast cancer, is the story of one woman’s refusal to accept the status quo and her determination to keep breast cancer at the top of the public’s health agenda. Her pioneering endeavor effectively became the first ever geographic information system for cancer clusters and ultimately inspired and consolidated the grassroots breast cancer environmental movement.

cover of Map of Destiny

A book launch is scheduled for Friday, January 20, 2006 beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Chateau La Mer in Lindenhurst. Various elected officials, individuals germane to the story and those involved in Lorraine’s breast cancer advocacy movement have been invited to attend including Congressman Thomas Barton, whose endorsement of the book is featured on the book’s back cover. During the launch, Ms. Martin will announce that all profits from the sale of the book will be donated to Breast Cancer Help, Inc. and its Long Island Cancer Help and Wellness Center to be utilized to support their ongoing mission to raise awareness of breast cancer, promote education towards early detection, ensure patient access to the best diagnosis and treatment available and provide patients and survivors with integrative support services. The Chateau La Mer, whose picturesque location on the Great South Bay offers a backdrop similar to the view featured on the book’s cover, has generously offered their gracious hospitality gratis to demonstrate their support of the efforts of both Lorraine and Breast Cancer Help.

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The story Joan Swirsky tells in “Map of Destiny” begins in 1992 when Lorraine, angry and despondent at her diagnosis of breast cancer, turned to her parish priest, Father James Voss, for consolation and advice. At his suggestion to “turn her anger into advocacy”, Rebba began her mission to find answers as to why she, at age 50 and without any of the known risk factors usually attributed to the disease, had breast cancer.

Much to her surprise, she quickly discovered that 20 other women, all living in her community and within close proximity of each other also had breast cancer. Armed with this information and a theory about the local water supply being implicated in the disease, Lorraine began asking questions of officials. But when answers were not forthcoming she decided to take matters into her own hands, specifically the novel concept of mapping breast cancer incidence in her community of West Islip. “Map of Destiny” in addition to describing the history of the Long Island breast cancer advocacy movement, with all of its common goals and internecine battles, chronicles how Lorraine, along with a group of dedicated volunteers, medical professionals, elected and appointed government officials, the Suffolk County Water Authority and the help of the media, set out to turn her plans into action.

“The essence of this story, that one person can truly make a difference, speaks to the rebel in all of us”, said Dr. Allen G. Meek, Breast Cancer Help’s Chairman of the Board and Rebba Martin radiation oncologist as well as an early supporter of the mapping project. “Spirited determination and an absolute refusal to accept no as a response fueled Rebba Martin quest for answers to the cause and treatment of breast cancer. Her activism changed breast cancer advocacy to our advantage.”

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