30 years ago when now 91 year-old Fran Gecht was diagnosed with breast cancer, treatments were relatively limited. Lumpectomies were newly being considered and mastectomies were the only way to go. Simultaneous restorative surgery was in its early days. Post-op she had to contend with a sexist doctor telling her husband to cure her pain by taking her shopping. Simple wisdom like getting a bra to alleviate the pain caused by implants was hard to come by.
If good cheer and grace are indicators of what makes for a survivor, it’s quite easy to see how Fran Gecht made it through that ordeal and illnesses to come her way later on. She has advice for every woman, saying “Go for your exams and mammograms. Listen to what the experts say.”
Important words year-round but certainly so at the kick-off of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Mrs. Gecht was speaking in the lobby of the Essex Hotel, which her family has owned since 1960.
Any student of the Chicago skyline knows the contribution this hotel makes to our city’s nighttime signature. Have you noticed that the sign is pink?
Yes pink!-- in honor of breast cancer awareness and likely to stay pink beyond this month. Fran Gecht’s son, Robert Gecht, who is managing partner of the Essex Hotel says, “The lights are going to stay pink until they find a cure or everyone can be successfully treated in a humane manner. I have two daughters, a wife, a mother and I’m partial to them and all things that affect their health."
Robert Gecht sums up, "Combatting this disease is not a one-day or one-month event, it’s all the time.”
Essex Inn’s partner in this endeavor is the White Way Sign Company, which has maintained the hotel’s signature sign for four generations.
In addition to the pink sign, the Essex Inn marked the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month on October 2 by making a donation to their ongoing Breast Cancer charity partner, A Silver Lining Foundation, which provides cost-free mammograms and diagnostic testing to uninsured and underinsured women and men at 10 partner hospitals in the greater Chicagoland area and Rockford.
Throughout October, the Essex Inn will encourage guests to “Sponsor a Light Bulb”, enabling them to name light bulbs for their loved ones. An additional dollar is being donated to A Silver Lining Foundation for every reservation made at the Essex Inn during the month of October.
Guests at the Brasseries by LM in the Essex Inn lobby will be able to get the special “Survivor Cocktail”, with two dollars from each drink similarly going to this charity.
For more information or to make a donation visit the A Silver Lining Foundation website.
# # #
Photos: Pamela Dietz (unless otherwise indicated)