It’s been almost 30 years since Harriet Legum was first diagnosed with breast cancer. By the time she received her diagnosis, Legum had long suspected she had cancer. But doctors insisted that at age 41, she was simply too young to have such a malignancy.
Finally, convinced that the lump in her breast was growing, Legum found a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital who was willing to listen. “I was on the operating table and the doctor said, ‘You were right, Harriet. You do have breast cancer,’” she recalls.
That experience and her subsequent battle and victory over breast cancer changed her life forever.
This year, the 22nd annual “A Woman’s Journey” conference — which Legum created with her friend and fellow breast cancer survivor Mollye Block — will take place on Saturday, Nov. 5, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Hilton Baltimore Hotel at 401 W. Pratt St.
The daylong gathering was created by Legum and Block after they met while attending a Hopkins event.
“We looked at each other and liked each other immediately,” says Legum. The two women became good friends. In talking about their experiences with breast cancer, they agreed that women deserved to be better informed about their own bodies and given the tools and information to advocate for themselves.
The women approached Leslie Waldman, then associate director of marketing for Johns Hopkins Medicine and the hospital’s current director of consumer and physician engagement, and Christine White, who recently retired from her position as assistant dean for medicine, with their proposal.
About a year later, “A Woman’s Journey” was held for the first time.
“We thought maybe we’d have 200 to 300 women,” says Legum. “We had almost 600! That validated us. Nowadays, we have way over 1,000.”
Though Legum is still the event’s chair, Block has stepped down this year as co-chair. She will be replaced by Kelly Ripken.
Legum says she is buoyed by Ripken’s “fabulous energy.”
“A Woman’s Journey” offers 32 seminars — eight choices for every hour of the conference. Sessions, which are led by top Hopkins doctors, include 45 minutes of lectures and 15 minutes of questions-and-answers.
Highlights of this year’s conference include workshops on aging and the brain; the Zika virus; bone loss; sleep disorders; and new diagnostic tools for breast cancer.
New offerings include an all-day, 3-D printing demonstration that will produce a facial bone, and a dessert reception with faculty members who will answer questions about their specialties.
The conference plenary will be delivered by Dr. Redonda Miller, associate professor of medicine, who was recently named the first woman president of Hopkins. The lunch keynote speaker will be Dr. Kofi Boahene, associate professor of otolaryngology, who will share his “journey from the streets of Ghana to the surgical suites of Hopkins.”
“Most of the doctors stay for lunch,” says Legum, who lives in Pikesville. On occasion, she says, attendees who have tried unsuccessfully to get appointments because of long waiting lists are able to connect with a doctor at the conference. Sometimes, such interactions result in an appointment for the attendee.
“The conference is also a wonderful bonding experience,” says Legum. “It feels so good not only to have found my voice to protect myself and my children, but also to have been able to give other women the power and knowledge to stand up for themselves. Don’t be a victim!”
Click for more information about “A Woman’s Journey.”
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