The office of Dr. John Kehoe’s Breast Center in Bay Ridge was bathed in bright pink on a recent Saturday in observation of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The breast cancer center on Third Avenue put on the display for the first time in 2019, but had to put it on pause in 2020 due to the pandemic. They brought it back in 2021 for its second iteration after a whirlwind two years for the practice.
Kehoe said the practice plans to expand the light show in the future to include neighboring businesses, and put more of an emphasis on the center’s “survivorship program.”
“We’ve been at this for about 30 years,” he said of the program, built around Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In 2015, the center started promoting their “Selfies With Survivors” initiative, in which Kehoe would bring in a survivor, have them take a selfie and ask them to write about their experience battling the disease.
“It’s important for people going through it to see that there is hope,” the doctor said, stressing how hard that can be to convey to patients who are just receiving their diagnosis. “But, as time goes on, as therapy goes on and as they hear these other stories, so many of them realize it is survivable.”
As for this year’s office lighting, Kehoe said, the team was glad to be able to do something at all to mark the month of October.
“Next year we expect it to be even bigger,” he said. “But what we were able to do this year was nice.”
This year’s lighting comes as the practice continues to deal with the challenges of operating during the pandemic, during which they have stayed open and operating nearly the entire time, though not without roadblocks. After receiving essential worker status in March 2020 which allowed them to stay open and treat patients, a number of staffers at the center, including Dr. Kehoe, fell ill with the virus, forcing them to shutter temporarily and delay treatment on about a dozen developing cancer cases.
They were able to reopen in May 2020 at half capacity, but fear of the virus remained present. Kehoe says they now operate at roughly three quarters capacity, with a slew of new safety measures to keep the office safe including daily midday fumigations.
“It’s a different office,” Kehoe said. “I think we’ve landed on our feet, but the ground we’re on has changed.”
While the office has dealt with its own challenges, those battling breast cancer are facing their own heightened struggles, some of which the doctor suspects are the result of delaying care.
“I don’t know if this is pandemic-related or not but I can tell you that we’re seeing worse cases,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s the nature of my referral pattern, or if it stems from people putting off important screenings during the pandemic.”
Kehoe stressed to any prospective patients to find a center that is taking proper COVID precautions — and not to delay treatment
“Do your best to come in and just make sure that the center — wherever you go, whether it’s my place or any other place — is taking precautions, however you feel about those precautions,” he said. “We’ll never get back to fully normal, I don’t think, but let’s do it as best we can.”
“I think the closer we can get to it, and the more we encourage screening, the better off we’ll all be.”