Rock-themed event helps cancer patients cover bills

Third annual Jam for the Cure at Augie’s Bar & Grill Oct. 6

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published October 3, 2012

MADISON HEIGHTS — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In a few days, a breast cancer survivor and her friends will unite under the battle cry of “Save the ta-tas” to raise money for cancer patients struggling to pay their medical bills.

Now in its third year, Jam for the Cure will have several local bands playing at Augie’s Bar & Grill, 31660 John R, along with auctions for prizes, including guitars signed by rock legends, sports memorabilia, a golf package and more. The fundraiser runs from 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, to 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 7.

Laurie Stefanka, of Howell, wife of Madison Heights firefighter Mike Stefanka, is the breast cancer survivor who started the event. She knows how difficult it can be trying to cover medical costs while recovering from a life-threatening illness.

In the fall of 1998, Laurie was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer; it had flown under the radar despite checking for it on a regular basis, something she did because her mother had previously had breast cancer.

At the time, Laurie was a single mother; her daughter, Rachel, was 11 years old. She had to meet with surgeons on the same day she was diagnosed and went in for a bilateral mastectomy within a week.

The ordeal forced her to sell her house and move into a duplex. While she had health insurance, she didn’t have an income because she had to leave her job while she underwent reconstructive surgery. She also didn’t have short-term disability.

“It was scary at the time, but I was more worried about my daughter,” Laurie said.

Thankfully, family friends Ken and Kelly Miller, of Temperance, took Rachel in during the difficult eight months Laurie was recovering. In the end, she was declared to be in the clear. There is still continual follow-up, but she has been able to care for her four children ever since.

Her concern is whether they will have to deal with cancer. Laurie’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and less advanced treatment at the time left her with deep radiation burns. Though she survived the cancer, she didn’t survive the treatment, and 20 years later, the damage done to her circulatory system caused her to pass away in 2002.

Laurie hopes that groups like the American Cancer Society — which raise money to research potential cures, improve treatment and help cancer patients pay the bills — will reduce the threat of cancer her children could face.

“Within the next few years, my oldest daughter will be at the point where she is supposed to start going in for the earliest mammograms,” Laurie said. “Anything we can do to move forward with finding a cure for this or whatever can be done, needs to be done, and we need to put everything we can towards making it happen.”

Jam for the Cure is one way. The event benefits Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, an ACS walk starting at the Howell courthouse at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13. This year, funds raised at Jam for the Cure will be earmarked specifically to help patients trying to pay their medical bills.

The bands Social Tease, to which Laurie’s husband belongs, Strawberry Alternative, Potty Mouth Sissies and Grand Circus will perform. There will be door prizes, including sports memorabilia, and T-shirt sales.

But the main draw is the silent auction, which includes hot pink Dean guitars, signed by BB King, Chickenfoot and Eric Johnson; tickets for the upcoming Joe Bonamassa concert at the Fox Theater, with a meet-and-greet function and a full catalog of his music; a chance to try the H1 training course on the Hummer test track in South Bend, courtesy of AM General; a certificate to A-Ga-Ming Golf Resort in Kewadin near Traverse City, for four 18-hole rounds on Torch Lake; and signed Red Wings and Tigers memorabilia.

The money raised will help make a difference in the lives of cancer patients.

“Physically and mentally, cancer can completely wipe someone out,” said Mary Kraft, community representative for the Great Lakes Division of ACS.

Kraft and her family are all too familiar with the challenges of cancer: 21 people in her family have dealt with it, and each was helped by ACS in one way or another.

“The big focus with the financial burden of cancer is that we want people to be able to focus on getting better, not focused on how they’re going to pay for it,” Kraft said. “We understand that people have to fight this terrible beast that is cancer, and they shouldn’t have to fight the financial burden as well.”

Jam for the Cure will take place at Augie’s Bar & Grill, 31660 John R, from 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, to 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 7. For more information, call (517) 719-2324. The American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk will start on the courthouse lawn, 200 E. Grand River, in Howell at 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, with registration at 8 a.m. For more information, call (517) 223-3453.