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ZTA cause hits close to home

The Zeta Tau Alpha chapter at Florida Southern held fundraisers and events this week to  raise money for their national philanthropy – breast cancer education and awareness – which has personally impacted many sisters’ lives.

As one in eight women will develop breast cancer within her lifetime, numerous ZTA sisters have friends or family members who have been affected by the disease.  These close ties with the philanthropy make the sisters of ZTA passionate and driven to raise money for the cause.

Sisters of ZTA with breast cancer survivors Michelle Milavetz and Christine Barwick.

Nationally, ZTA’s three philanthropic partners are the American Cancer Society, Bright Pink and the NFL, but the Delta Beta chapter here at FSC also plans local profit-shares and holds its annual “Crown Classic,” a flag-football tournament.

“Having the opportunity to organize events and raise money for a philanthropy I love has been extremely fulfilling,” ZTA Director of Philanthropy Sera Milavetz said.  “It’s a great feeling to be able to give back to a cause that has impacted so many of our mothers, grandmothers and friends.”

Milavetz’ mother Michelle is a breast cancer survivor, and as a part of ZTA’s philanthropy week this spring she attended their chapter meeting and Cones for a Cure event to share her story.

After suffering from a health condition as a 20-year-old that required radiation to her entire upper body/chest area, in her mid 40’s, Michelle discovered that the radiation had led to a plethora of additional health concerns.

She was told only days apart that she had breast cancer and would need a double-mastectomy, and that her heart was failing her and she’d need open heart surgery.  The doctors warned that if she did not have the heart surgery first, she would not survive the mastectomy.

“At this point we were just concerned about the cancer spreading while we waited for the heart surgery and during the recovery period,” Michelle said.  “Luckily, it was stage 1 and remained the same size until my mastectomy.”

After recovering from her open heart surgery, Michelle was finally able to have both of her breasts removed in the double-mastectomy but did not realize the blood thinners she was on would cause severe complications.

The doctors had performed a new type of mastectomy, where they leave a portion of the skin including the nipple to use in the reconstruction process.  However, the blood thinners had cause clots to form in Michelle’s drainage tubes, and the skin including the nipple turned black and died.

“When I returned to the doctor after the mastectomy and he removed my bandages, I knew something was off by the look on my friend’s face,” Michelle said.  “She had been through the mastectomy process herself, so her reaction had me extremely concerned.”

The portion of remaining skin was removed, and Michelle would go through multiple additional surgeries before her reconstruction process was completed.

“Nowadays the word ‘mastectomy’ has become so common that people don’t realize it’s actually an amputation,” Michelle said.  “They aren’t just removing your breasts, but a piece of what makes us women.”  

After hearing Michelle’s story, sisters of ZTA were even more excited to take on “Pink Week” and host events to raise money for breast cancer awareness.  Over the course of the week, the chapter held a profit-share at Chipotle, “Cones for a Cure” and their annual Crown Classic tournament.

Proceeds raised at the events is donated to the Zeta Tau Alpha Foundation, which works closely with all three of ZTA’s national philanthropic partners.

“This year’s events were such a success, I’m so proud of my sisters and the impact we’ve made,” Milavetz said.  “We’ve raised over $1,500 this week, and I’m looking forward to raising even more during “Pink Week” next fall.”

Many members of ZTA were drawn to the organization as they have family members who are breast cancer survivors.  This close connection brings the sisters together in their fight for a cure and pushes them to improve their events year after year.


Related Links:

ZTA Philanthropy & Collegiate Life

ZTA – Delta Beta Facebook

Think Pink