We received an interesting story from Ellie Schmutz, marketing manager at Western Missouri Medical Center in Warrensburg (WMMC). It's titled: " Dean's Story: Why WMMC's CFO Wears Pink".

Dean didn’t know that walking into a post office in October of 2008 would result in him wearing pink every day in October for the rest of his life, but that’s exactly what happened. He saw a woman dressed up in pink on October 1st for breast cancer awareness and he asked if she wore pink just on October 1st.

“I wear pink all month,” she said firmly. “And you could too.”

Dean went home and thought about that for a while. Working in healthcare, he saw the value and although he only had two pink shirts, and thought he’d give a shot. A few laundry loads later he made it through his first week of pink.

October went by and he collected a couple more pink shirts, and happy that he helped raise awareness for breast cancer he put his pink shirts away and moved on with his life. A few months down the road, he met his girlfriend Susan and wore pink to one of their dates. He explained to her why he had a pink shirt, and his story of wearing pink through October.

October 1st, 2009 came around and he rolled out of bed, tired eyed and unsure what the day would hold for him. To his surprise, he opened his closet to see a gift from his girlfriend, Susan - a row of brand new pink shirts. Accepting this new trend in his life, Dean has worn pink every day in October since, and thanks to Susan, he does much less laundry.

Wearing Pink for Leslie

In December 2009, however Dean’s hobby for raising breast cancer awareness became much more serious. Leslie – his “girlfriend” from 3rd grade, and more so, his life-long friend – called him up to give him a chat. Before hanging up the phone, she said “By the way, I have been diagnosed with breast cancer.”

Dean was in shock, but after talking to her and understanding she’d done everything for early detection, she was going through treatments and was as fine as a woman can possibly be after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Through treatment, chemotherapy, and prayers, Leslie made it through breast cancer and Dean became an even bigger advocate for breast cancer awareness, preventative screenings, and mammograms.

Wearing Pink for Karen

Dean continued to raise breast cancer awareness, but nothing would prepare him for August 2014, when he would get a call that Karen, his ex-wife, had been diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted to speak to him immediately. She had been hospitalized and Dean quickly dropped everything he was doing for the four-hour drive to Salina, KS to see her at her bedside.

Listening to Karen’s story, it wasn’t looking good. She admitted that at some point she was aware of the breast cancer, but she never had a preventative screening or a mammogram, and now it was progressing to the point of no return. She was struggling to keep awareness of the conversation, and Dean struggled to keep coherent communication with her going.

A few trips happened back and forth of Dean visiting her on his weekends off, and Karen received some chemotherapy, but the cancer was clearly taking over her body and her condition was quickly worsening.

A few weeks after being diagnosed, Dean got the call that he needed to get to her – and fast. Dean drove the four hours to her, unsure if he would make it or not. He dashed out of the car and into the hospital, running to her bedside. Bursting into the hospital room, he found her gasping, with Karen’s family sitting at her feet. Understanding what was happening, he hurried to her bedside, and was able to whisper his dying message to her. Moments later, she passed, and Dean was left with her grieving family.

Early Detection is Why I Wear Pink

“This is why I wear pink,” Dean says. “I have had two people very dear to me get diagnosed with breast cancer, and this is the two paths that breast cancer can take. I always encourage people to get their preventative screenings.”

Leslie and Karen aren’t the only two people that Dean has known to have breast cancer. Two years ago his little sister had breast cancer, and due to a preventative screening was able to catch it in time and is doing great.

Dean’s collection of pink has grown from a hand full of shirts to a full wardrobe, suit and tie, and even a pink mustang convertible. All in the name of raising breast cancer awareness and getting people to get their preventative screenings.


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