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Cancer Advocate and Philanthropist Becomes Breast Cancer Survivor

Philanthropist Annette Bloch.

August 30, 2019

For 3 decades, Kansas City philanthropist Annette Bloch advocated for cancer patients. Yet in all those years, she never dreamed she’d be one.

Her husband, Richard – the "R" in H&R Block – had been the cancer patient in the family. In a story that is legend, he was given only 3 months to live when diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in 1978. Instead, Richard lived another 25 years, beating cancer not once but twice.

Cancer care champions

During those years, the Blochs devoted their energies to helping other cancer patients educate themselves and learn about their options. Giving hope and encouragement, the couple motivated patients to take charge of their disease.

They penned 3 books on battling cancer, built more than 25 cancer survivor parks across North America and established the RA Bloch Cancer Foundation and a toll-free cancer hotline. When Richard died of heart failure in 2004, Annette took on the challenge of continuing their work.

So, in 2008 when her routine mammogram at The University of Kansas Health System led to a breast cancer diagnosis, the cancer care advocate of 3 decades admits she was blindsided.

A surprise breast cancer diagnosis

“Honestly, it took me a little while to process the information,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it – even though I’m at high risk. My sister died of breast cancer at 50, back when treatment options were very limited.”

Her breast radiologist broke the news, explaining her tumor was very small, caught in the early stages. “I wasn’t scared. I really wasn’t,” she says. “I knew I was in the right place to be treated. The quality of care and physicians here are just phenomenal.”

On the Bloch Foundation website, a letter written years ago by Annette’s husband offers this advice to newly diagnosed cancer patients: “There is a saying that it takes 6 things to beat cancer. First is the best possible medical treatment. Second is the best possible medical treatment. Third, fourth and fifth are the best possible medical treatment. Sixth is a positive mental attitude."

This hospital is a special place and Kansas City is fortunate to have it. I have been all over the country advocating for cancer patients, and there is something special about the hospital's services, this facility and the people who work here. – Annette Bloch

Philanthropist, advocate and breast cancer survivor

Best possible breast cancer treatment

Annette didn’t need to do her homework on where to find “the best possible medical treatment.” A longtime friend of The University of Kansas Health System, she’d toured the outpatient cancer center before it opened in 2007 and was so impressed she’d contributed $1 million during one of the opening events.

Following her lumpectomy, Annette received a type of radiation treatment relatively new in the United States. Instead of radiation 5 days a week for 6 or 7 weeks, she received intensive radiation twice a day for 1 week. In addition to praising her breast radiologist, with whom she’s formed a fast friendship, she applauds her breast surgical oncologist and breast medical oncologist, Carol Fabian, MD, “and the other wonderful doctors, nurses and staff at The University of Kansas Cancer Center."

Special facility, special people

“You know, I could have gone anywhere, but I was so lucky to be able to come here,” she says. “I’ve been all over the country advocating for cancer patients, and there is something special about this facility and the people who work here.”

In 2008, she expressed her gratitude with a $20 million gift to cancer care for breast imaging, blood and marrow transplant and radiation oncology programs. In 2009, the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion and the Richard and Annette Bloch Radiation Oncology Pavilion were named to recognize her generosity.

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