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Bringing pink to the people
(Submitted photo)

Friends and Baltimore County residents Terri Poleski, 53, and Adrian Goodman, 48, are very different women.

"We have two different personalities, which is funny," Goodman said. "She's very calm, she's very calming, and just says yes to everything, whereas I'm much more hyper and want to go 100 miles an hour…"

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But the two have one thing in common: both were diagnosed with, and overcame, breast cancer. Now they are determined not only to raise funds for breast cancer research, but also to raise awareness about the need for early detection and prevention through "Pirates in Pink," their team in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

The two met about a decade ago. Though they lived in the same area for some time, it took a life-changing event in Poleski's life to bring them together.

"We live just a block away from each other," Poleski said. "We've known each other for about ten years just as neighbors, acquaintances. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 and she came to visit, express her sympathy … I was only 44 at the time."

Goodman's neighborly support turned into a friendship, which was only strengthened when she, too, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.

"We got to know each other a little better back then, but then, lo and behold a few years later … she was then diagnosed," Poleski said. "And she said to me that I was the first person that came to her mind and she wanted to talk so that's when we became closer friends … we've been close friends the past three, four, five years since we've been through this together, and even more so now that we started this team and these fundraisers."

Both women said they were inspired by the other's strength. For Poleski, seeing Goodman fight breast cancer while raising a family was especially moving.

"She's the mother of two young girls, and I guess that was another reason when she was diagnosed, it hit me in a different way, because she was diagnosed also at 44, which was how old I was when I was diagnosed, but her daughters were very young," Poleski said. "So it really hit me funny seeing this young mother with two young girls battling this, going through chemo, being just weak and having a family to take care of, just makes you think what would happen if she wasn't around anymore."

Goodman said she was touched by Poleski's positive attitude.

"… I remember when she went through her illness and I was amazed at the strength that she demonstrated," Goodman said. "She was out in her garden, she had a bandana on her head and she was always smiling..."

Both women have lost loved ones to breast cancer. Poleski's mother and close friend and Goodman's mother-in-law all passed away from the disease. Their personal experiences with breast cancer inspired them to participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Poleski, who has been participating in the walk for about 10 years, walked independently and with different teams before joining Goodman's team, the Miller's Island Angels, in 2011.

In 2012, the two decided to form a team together. Almost immediately, Poleski was struck with an idea for a fundraising event.

"Well it started out because my husband and my brother-in-law own a marina — we live in a waterfront community and they own a marina," Poleski said. "Adrian and I were talking about raising money and I threw out the idea of 'why don't we have some sort of event at the bar [at the marina]?'"

They have hosted an annual fundraiser at Rowboat Willie's, the bar in Bill's Yacht Basin, ever since. The event features food, games and opportunities to win prizes, with all of the proceeds raised going to Susan G. Komen. The two said they are grateful to have the support of local businesses for the event.

"We have local businesses from around this area, and even as far as Windsor Mill, from the other side of town, to donate either services or they may donate a basket with a gift certificate that we can raffle off," Poleski said. "What I have to say [that's] made this so popular is the generosity of the businesses helping us … There's a company called Tip Top Tables and they do party rentals and those huge tents that you see when you have events and stuff like that … they've put tents up for other events that we've had at the marina, and they donated this whole 30-by-30 tent and tables and chairs and linens, and it's something like that that really goes a long way."

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Their event has been nothing short of a resounding success, raising about $2,000 the first year and more than doubling that the next with approximately $4,300. This year's event, held Sept. 20, raised $8,800.

In addition, the two are planning to host a fundraiser at Costas Inn, a restaurant in Baltimore, Oct. 21.

In 2013, their team of 60 was recognized for raising over $13,000, and was named the top fundraising team of the year.

Stephanie Krasnoff, communications and marketing manager with Susan G. Komen, said the support women like Goodman and Poleski provide is vital to the work her organization does for breast health and breast cancer research.

"I believe that everyone has been touched by breast cancer, whether it's affected you personally or you just know someone, everyone's been touched, so when somebody shows compassion it just develops and that's not something that you can buy, that's how we survive," she said. "We survive financially but it's really compassion of others …we couldn't do the work we do without the local community supporting us, and in return, we provide 75 percent of our funds back … to Maryland to support breast health programs, and then 25 percent of our funds goes to our national headquarters who distributes it [for research]."

Mike Poleski, Terri's husband, said he is extremely proud of his wife's fundraising efforts.

"I can't even put it in words," he said. "Since we've been married, it's one of the greatest things she's accomplished … I mean my wife has more than 100 percent support from me to continue on in doing this."

Despite their success in raising money, Goodman and Poleski said that financial support is not their primary focus. For both women, speaking out about breast cancer and raising awareness about early detection is their main goal.

"I think personally my biggest reason again is just to bring awareness that it's something that affects so many people," Poleski said. "Anybody you talk to either has been affected by breast cancer or knows someone that has. It's a common form of cancer but it's so treatable if it's caught in the early stages, so my biggest reason is to bring awareness, to get out there and talk about it, and the funds that we raise, that goes to fund more research."

For Goodman, raising awareness is important not just for adult women, but for young girls like her daughters — ages 7 and 9 — who are active participants in her fundraising efforts. But she doesn't stop at fundraising events to spread the word; she also takes advantage of her connection to other women via social media.

"Terri and I try to take the microphone at our fundraiser at the marina and we try to tell people, we not only thank them for their attendance and their generous donations but we remind them that early detection can mean the difference between life and death and I post that on my Facebook account quite often: Have you had your mammogram yet this year? And you'd be surprised at the ones who [comment] back and say 'no I haven't' … so if I can save somebody it's well worth it."

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Krasnoff said she is extremely grateful to the women for their ongoing fundraising efforts for Susan G. Komen.

"I admire their support," she said. "They're very strong supporters of Komen Maryland and it takes a lot of ambition and a lot of inspiration to be that kind of support ... and I can't thank them enough for what they do."

Though Mike Poleski said he doesn't know Goodman as well as he knows his wife, he said he can tell they have similar giving personalities.

"For these women to step up to the plate, to go through this, then set up these fundraisers to help other women, they're loving, caring people," he said.

Reach Times Staff Reporter Elaina Clarke at 410-857-3316 or via email at elaina.clarke@communitytimes.com.

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