Tigers fans joined Karmanos and McLaren, dressed in pink to honor breast cancer survivors and fighters across Michigan

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute’s 11th Annual Pink Out the Park event with the Detroit Tigers and McLaren Health Care, the official health care system of the Tigers, was a home run in Motor City. As the Tigers battled against the Seattle Mariners on Friday, May 12, 2023, hundreds of breast cancer survivors and their loved ones filled the stands at Comerica Park, decorated in pink to promote breast cancer awareness and support.

“It is gratifying to see so much support from the community of survivors and their families - support for the survivors themselves and support for our institution,” reflected Michael Simon, M.D., MPH, medical oncologist and co-leader of the Breast Cancer Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) at Karmanos.

PAWS visits breast cancer survivors at Karmanos

Before game day, PAWS, the official mascot of the Detroit Tigers, surprised five breast cancer patients at Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit and Karmanos Cancer Institute at Weisberg Cancer Center (Weisberg) in Farmington Hills. PAWS presented the patients with “Pink Out the Park 2023” engraved pink bats to commemorate the event.

In Detroit, the Karmanos honorees included Naeena Love, Angela Hubbard and Nakiesha Richards. Tonja Shellman and Andrea Thorne had fun with PAWS during their photo shoot in Farmington Hills.

Thorne, 65, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2021. Two years after her breast cancer diagnosis, Thorne continues to choose Karmanos for her breast cancer screenings and genetic counseling.

“All the medical professionals and staff at Karmanos are consistently positive, compassionate and supportive. The result is more heart-centered relationships and interactions with patients who are facing uphill challenges…. and I am grateful,” Thorne described.

Pink Out the Park Night

Game day finally arrived. The monumental evening began with an on-field parade of breast cancer survivors. Over 400 women lined up around the baseball diamond in pink apparel displaying their survivor and Tiger pride. Surrounded by the patients they serve, this year’s Karmanos Starting 9 included members of the Breast Cancer MDT:

LaTorea McBride, a three-year breast cancer survivor, proudly sang the National Anthem on the field. McBride works at Karmanos as an ambulatory care specialist at the Women’s Wellness Clinic in Detroit.

Esther Lynn threw out the ceremonial first pitch, donned in her Tigers-gifted customized jersey with the number 23 to commemorate the year. After a routine mammogram in 2022, Lynn was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma.

“Esther navigated her breast cancer journey with an unparalleled grace, sense of optimism and a contagious smile,” said Dr. Dominello, who nominated Lynn to be honored during the game.

As a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Lynn was excited and nervous to throw out the ceremonial first pitch and share her inspiring story.

“It was a spectacular night with all the love and support for one another,” reflected Lynn. “I was a bit nervous, but it was an amazing feeling on a perfect day – weather and all.”

Fans also viewed a video message on the scoreboard from Kimberley Clark-Paul, M.D., a breast surgeon at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Port Huron and member of the Breast Cancer MDT, about breast cancer screening and surgical treatment options offered through Karmanos and McLaren.

During the first inning of the ballgame, Ashaki McCain received a “Pink Out the Park 2023” engraved pink bat as PAWS visited her in the stands. McCain has undergone three lumpectomies, a mastectomy and breast reconstruction since she was diagnosed at 44 years old in 2021. On top of the breast cancer diagnosis, McCain remains strong for her two daughters. Her breast surgeon, Dr. Choi, said McCain deserved this recognition.

“Ashaki has been incredibly patient through multiple operations. She is always cheerful and provides strength to others around her,” Dr. Choi wrote in McCain’s nomination.

At the start of the second inning, an avid Tigers fan, Frances Hahn, was recognized. After her routine mammogram, Hahn was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma.  

“Fran is very positive and has had a great attitude throughout her treatment,” stated Dr. O’Neill, Hahn’s breast surgeon.

As a breast and skin cancer survivor, Hahn always reminds people to get their screenings. Now, she has her breast cancer story to encourage women to schedule their mammograms faithfully.

Betsy Cowles was selected to play a word game during her in-stand recognition in the third inning. Cowles correctly guessed the catchphrase: “Cancer free.” The 38-year-old mother of four was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer after experiencing what she believed to be a clogged milk duct while nursing her newborn baby.

“I never thought that I would be diagnosed with breast cancer at my age,” said Cowles. “It’s important for me to take this opportunity to share my experience and let other young women know this can happen at a young age and to get their screenings done," said Cowles.

Over 40 of Cowles’ family and friends traveled on a charter bus from Lansing to support her, including her mother - a 23-year breast cancer survivor. She even got to sit by her oncologist, Dr. Isaac, during the game.

“Pink Out the Park is an amazing night, full of survivors and their families, and a great way to celebrate all of the minor and major battles that we have won against breast cancer. It was such a wonderful way to come together with other survivors and those still in the fight, to celebrate and uplift each other through one of the hardest things we will ever have to go through,” Cowles concluded.

For the first time, Pink Out the Park was held on a Friday, allowing the hundreds of breast cancer survivors to enjoy a fantastic display of the Friday Night Fireworks following the game. The Tigers added an extra sprinkle of pink, making the fireworks display that much more special for the survivors in attendance.

The Detroit Tigers donated $5 from each Pink Out ticket package sold and a portion of the 50/50 raffle sales to breast cancer research at Karmanos. Fans who bought the Pink Out ticket package received a pink Tigers bucket hat for each ticket purchased. The first 15,000 fans through the gate received a Pink Out the Park quarter-zip pullover.

Breast cancer screening, prevention and treatment

Aside from skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In the U.S., women have a 1 in 8 chance of developing the disease.

At Karmanos, the Breast Cancer MDT includes surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, plastic surgeons, pharmacists, specialized nurse practitioners, dietitians, social workers, genetic counselors and patient navigators. The team focuses entirely on treating breast cancer and shares its collective expertise to create a customized treatment plan for each patient.

In the fight against cancer, early detection is an important weapon since cancer is most treatable in its early stages. Many forms of cancer do not display symptoms at their onset, so screening helps monitor for warning signs. Karmanos recommends an annual screening mammogram for all women of average risk beginning at age 40. Women with one or more risk factors should talk with their family doctor or a Karmanos expert about when to start screening for breast cancer.

Patient referrals are not needed to receive a screening mammography at Karmanos or McLaren locations. To request a mammogram appointment or learn more, visit karmanos.org/breasthealth or call 1-800-KARMANOS.

On Tuesday, June 20, Karmanos and McLaren will honor prostate cancer survivors and educate Tigers fans about the importance of prostate cancer screenings and prevention methods. For your ticket to the Prostate Cancer Awareness Night when the Detroit Tigers take on the Kansas City Royals, go to tigers.com/tickets. Fans will have a chance to donate to prostate cancer research at Karmanos when purchasing their tickets.