The girl in the fuchsia suit

Anyone who has ever seen Pat Battle’s reports from the Jersey Shore in the middle of a hurricane or a blizzard knows the “NBC4 New York” anchor to be a woman of courage and compassion. So it was no surprise to find that her recent speech before what she called “900 of the most well-heeled people in Greenwich”  had them on those well-shod feet, blinking back tears.

Pat, a breast cancer survivor of three years, was the keynote speaker for the Breast Cancer Alliance’s “Kick Up Your Heels, Step Out for Pink” fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich, and she galvanized the mostly female audience with her warmth, earthiness and self-deprecating sense of humor.

“I’m not going to call this (talk) ‘my struggle,’” she said. “I’m going to call this ‘my journey.’” It began in the fall of 2010 when she was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, triple negative, Stage 0 calcifications in her right breast. It came as a shock as she had no history of breast cancer in her family and had breast-fed her three children.

“These are working girls,” she said, saucily putting her hands under her breasts.

Pat was no stranger to good stories, having reported on the Garden State, where she grew up, since beginning her career as a reporter for the Asbury Park Press. But this was one story she wanted to keep private.  Then driving back from Montreal where she and husband Anthony had celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary, he urged her to go public with her journey and  asked, “What would your mother expect you to do?” Pat’s mother – a teacher and social worker who had been the first African-American woman to hold a number of civic offices in her New Jersey community – had not raised a wallflower.

“For the first time in then-16 years of marriage, I said, ‘Honey, you’re right.’”

She told pals like meteorologist Janice Huff and Erica Tarantal, with whom she has co-anchored “Weekend Today in New York,” and then arranged for the news station’s only camerawoman to chronicle the removal of the malignant cells at Mount Sinai Hospital.

“I like the boys,” she said of her male colleagues, “but I wasn’t ready to introduce them to the girls.”

Cancer-free, Pat is on a mission, one that often takes her to events like the one presented by the Breast Cancer Alliance, a Greenwich-based nonprofit that’s been fighting the good fight since 1996, raising funds for cutting-edge research, breast surgical fellowships, mammograms for indigent women and education and other outreach programs. The afternoon was a treat as only an afternoon can be when you get a group of ladies together, with laughs; tears; intimate conversations; two Mitchells/Richards fashion shows, one of which was filled with sharp-looking breast cancer survivors that included men; a healthy lunch of chicken and root vegetables that was punctuated by Georgetown Cupcakes frosted in the alliance’s signature sherbet colors; specially designed pink suede Manolo Blahniks; and all kinds of goodies, including $100 gift cards courtesy of Mitchells/Richards, an event sponsor.

But the centerpiece was “the girl in the fuchsia suit,” as Pat described herself in her Elie Tahari. It’s her armor but also a reminder – to get a mammogram and to reach out to someone who has cancer with a meal, an offer of help, a hug.

For more on this event, check out Watch in WAG’s December “Gems” issue. 

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