Going through breast cancer taught me to accept what I cannot change. My grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s and passed away in 2009. That April, I found a lump while doing a breast self-exam. I had a biopsy and then, on my 37th birthday, the surgeon told me I had DCIS and an area of micro-invasion. I had a mastectomy and immediate reconstruction.
If I had waited until I was 40 to have a mammogram I probably wouldn’t be here. Cancer is non-discriminating and that includes by age. I’m a nurse practitioner at Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers, and I encourage my patients to talk with their provider about screenings.
Wayne County conducted a community assessment and one of the barriers it highlighted is transportation. We learned that women weren’t getting screened because of lack of transportation to medical care and many were being diagnosed at a later stage with a higher mortality rate. We held a community campaign called Putting on the Pink to raise funds for a mobile mammography van. There is funding now for the equipment and the next step is to fund the van itself.
I also represent Wayne County in the PA Breast Cancer Coalition’s photo exhibit, 67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania and spoke at a recent exhibit opening at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
The biggest lesson I learned through my experience is that some of the things I thought were important just really weren’t. It was a tough adjustment, having surgeries and at the same time still being in the Reserves. But I’ve learned to prioritize and to be present. When I’m not working, I take time to enjoy gardening, exercising, and reading.