RICHMOND, Va. -- June's Buddy Check 6 is dedicated to Stephanie Rochon. Stephanie passed away this week after her battle cancer. During her 16 years on-air in Richmond, Stephanie made it her mission to deliver monthly reports to inform us about breast cancer health.
Stephanie told the stories of breast cancer through the eyes of the survivors and the doctors on the front lines. Doctors like Dr. Mary Helen Hackney at VCU Massey Cancer Center who worked with Stephanie on Buddy Check 6 from the beginning.
"This was one of the key things she was able to do and say here's something new. Here's how it applies to you and not make it so foreign," Dr. Hackney said.
Stephanie's Buddy Check 6 reports were more than an assignment, they were her passion. When Stephanie arrived in Richmond, she was asked to produce monthly news reports on breast cancer awareness. Her news director at the time had no idea Stephanie’s mother was a breast cancer survivor.
"She comes into having gone through that emotional piece with her mother, but gaining the strength from that and then tell stories on this on how you can go forward," Dr. Hackney said.
Stephanie's personal story was the driving force behind her monthly reports to give women important breast health information, to do self-breast exams and to find a buddy to encourage them to get their mammograms.
"She told me it seemed that Stephanie was talking to no one else in TV world. She was talking specifically to her telling her what to do," Kate Kirby, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, said.
Talna Pettigrew found a lump in her right breast in 2004, but as a maid with no health insurance she could not afford to get a mammogram. She kept her inability to pay a secret from her three children. Stephanie's report led Pettigrew to a place to get her mammogram done for free. She discovered she had stage-four breast cancer. She would eventually have a full right mastectomy. Pettigrew's daughter said their family was thankful for Stephanie’s report.
"She loved helping people. We'll forever be indebted to her. She helped give my mom two more years ," Kirby said.
Pettigrew's cancer eventually spread to her liver and brain. She died in December 2006.
Nationally, it is estimated there will be more than 231,000 new breast cancer cases this year and more than 40,000 women will die from the disease. Catching breast cancer early still offers patients the best chance for survival.
Stephanie called her Buddy Check 6 reports the proudest moments of her broadcasting career. Stephanie and photojournalist Brad Wilson recently received an Emmy nomination for their work on Buddy Check 6.
I am honored to continue the legacy Stephanie started.