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2011 Gallery of Hope Honors Breast Cancer Survivors, Encourages Education and Awareness

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February 9, 2011

Traveling display features personal survival stories

February 9, 2011, Wilkes-Barre, PA — Ten northeastern Pennsylvania residents recently took the brave step of sharing their personal experiences with breast cancer to inspire others who are facing the disease. Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) has collected their stories and photos for the company’s 11th annual "Gallery of Hope."

Created by BCNEPA in 2000, the Gallery of Hope is a traveling display designed to educate the public about the importance of early detection and treatment in the fight against breast cancer. Beginning this month, the 2011 Gallery is available to exhibit throughout northeastern and north central Pennsylvania.

Luzerne County Honorees

This year’s Gallery of Hope includes two Luzerne County residents.

Judith Ragukas found it hard to believe when her doctor diagnosed her four years ago with two types of breast cancer despite no family history of the disease. The 48-year-old Sweet Valley resident, who is a registered nurse and clinical director for a local health system, has been cancer-free since having a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.

Since then, she’s dedicated herself to regularly reminding friends and family to get routine mammograms. She also inspires others fighting cancer by spreading positive messages from Finding the CAN in Cancer, a moving book by four long-time cancer survivors.

Like Ragukas, routine testing also helped save Janet Sterba’s life. Sterba, 67, of West Hazleton has used her recovery from breast cancer, and a flare for adventure, to inspire others fighting the disease. In 2005, she sky-dived into a Relay for Life event in Hazleton and walked with other survivors.

The retired drug and alcohol center director is always looking for her next adventure. A motorcycle enthusiast, she hopes to coordinate a charity ride for breast cancer. She wants to spread the message that "there is life after cancer and life is what you make of it. Today, the grass is greener, the sky is bluer and my grandkids are more fun."

Other Honorees

In addition to Ragukas and Sterba, the 2011 Gallery of Hope recognizes:

· Michelle Bruzzese, of Stroudsburg in Monroe County, who is a high school teacher and a mother of two.

· Josefa Cerra Dombrosky, of Carbondale in Lackawanna County, who is a third-grade teacher in the Lakeland School District and a religious educator.

· Karen Chapman, of Lock Haven in Clinton County, who is a grandmother and an employee at Woolrich and Wal-Mart.

· Kathryn Holod, of Clarks Summit in Lackawanna County, who is a college instructor and a board member for the Employment Opportunity & Training Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania (EOTC) and the American Red Cross of Lackawanna County.

· Dorothy Hoffman, of Jobs Corner in Tioga County, who is a farm owner and a grandmother of 10.

· Melissa Rickard, of Honesdale in Wayne County, who is a certified registered nurse practitioner at Honesdale Family Health Center.

· Margaret Shultz, of Montoursville in Lycoming County, who is a small business owner and a grandmother of 13.

· Jill Wetzel, of Factoryville in Wyoming County, who is a ballroom dance instructor and a mother of three.

About the Gallery of Hope

Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania created the Gallery of Hope in 2000. The nomination process is open year-round. To nominate a breast cancer survivor, or to request the Gallery of Hope as an exhibit at your facility or event, please contact Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania through the Gallery of Hope website at

About Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Headquartered in Wilkes-Barre, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCNEPA offers a comprehensive portfolio of health insurance products and administrative services to more than 550,000 individuals in 13 counties in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. The company’s mission is to provide innovative wellness solutions that increase access to high-quality, affordable health care and promote personal accountability.

Media Contact:
Anthony Matrisciano