Every Woman’s Story is Different
Every woman’s story is different. Yet, that dreaded word “cancer” makes every woman’s story the same. More and more often the outcome is positive and a cure is possible especially in Treasure Valley where there are programs these women can turn to for help in early detection.
The Snake River Stampede rodeo in Nampa has raised $420,000 since 2006 to help make women more aware of the importance of mammograms and to pay for those mammograms for uninsured and underinsured women.
Lynette Gaschlar, 47, went for a free mammogram through this program three years ago. She says she had never had one and felt like it was time she did. It showed no problem areas. By 2012, she found a lump in her breast and went for another mammogram. This time she was covered by insurance that she had acquired. And, this time, the mammogram showed some concern. First the doctor wanted an ultrasound and then a biopsy. Lynette went to a surgeon in Boise and decided to do a lumpectomy. It was found to be cancerous.
“By choice but also with the opinions of two doctors, I decided to get a double mastectomy just to be sure. I didn’t have to get chemotherapy or radiation. Then, I had two more surgeries for reconstruction. All of this is not easy but I still consider myself lucky, she says. “We caught it early.”
“Between the first mammogram and the second one I developed cancer. It just proves because you got one mammogram you are not home free. You should get one every year to be safe. I’ve sent several people who couldn’t afford it to get free mammograms. There is no excuse not to get one. I think fear holds us back from getting our mammograms. And, there is nothing to be afraid of,” she adds.
“I’m done with it all now,” Lynette says with a big sigh of relief, “and looking forward to a bright future. I have a husband and two boys. It’s been a family thing for us where we all went through it together. Everyone has helped out.”
Lynette Gaschler considers herself one of the lucky ones and urges every woman to get a yearly mammogram. She says an easy way to remind yourself is the buddy system where you and a friend go together to get a mammogram every year.
In Spite of the Warnings…
In spite of all the warnings throughout the media and from doctors, there are numerous reasons why a woman gets to mid life without ever having a mammogram. Maybe she procrastinates, maybe she is afraid of what she might find, or maybe she can’t afford it. Whatever the reason, many women find themselves in their mid to late forties without ever having a mammogram.
For Marie Edwards of Meridian, it was her loving, worried mother who urged her to check into an advertisement she saw on television offering free mammograms to underinsured or uninsured women. Marie called to see if she qualified to get a free mammogram and she did. In November, 2011, at the age of 45 she got her first mammogram at St. Luke’s in Meridian. The first image indicated there was more to look at so she had a second set of pictures taken at the Breast Cancer Diagnostic Center in Boise.
The word came back that a biopsy was necessary and that was done in December. The diagnosis came back positive a few days before Christmas. The next day she was on the phone with a patient navigator who gave her a wealth of information concerning her choices. Marie decided to have a lumpectomy and that was performed in January and followed with radiation treatment. As it turned out, her oncologist was the same one used by her grandmother in years past and she was very comfortable with her. The radiation treatments were completed the end of March this year and the next set of images in June were clear.
Today, Marie is thankful that her mother urged her to get a mammogram. “The most important thing I would like to say is this is a local program and the money raised stays here in Treasure Valley to help those who need help. This is for all the women out there: mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters and friends. It is just as easy as a simple phone call. It’s important that these women know this help is out there and it can save your life. I was so lucky to catch it early? They recommend that I get a mammogram every six months. I started a new job last December so now my insurance pays for it but the free program was there when I really needed it,” Marie says.
The Snake River Stampede rodeo in Nampa is dedicated to helping these women who need help in getting their mammograms. The program is called “Stampede for the Cure” and the rodeo has raised $420,000 since 2006 for this important, life-saving effort in Treasure Valley.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Women are urged to get yearly mammograms and to do self breast examinations. Although it’s an “in your face” warning, many women ignore it until it is too late. It has been proven that, with early detection, most of them can be completely cured.
One breast cancer survivor who took the warnings seriously is JoAnn Vanderwey of Nampa. “I had a mammogram when I was 40. It showed no problem. A year and a half later, through self examination, I found a lump in one of my breasts. I went to the doctor and, after testing, learned that it was cancer.”
Following her doctor’s advice, JoAnn had a lumpectomy performed. That was followed by four months of chemotherapy every other week. After waiting a month, the next step was six and a half weeks of radiation, every day, Monday through Friday. She has been in remission for four years and is checked regularly. She feels blessed that early detection saved her from more complicated treatments and even death.
Her message to other women is to “get your mammograms regularly and don’t forget to do self exams. I found my cancerous lump myself. My daughter has breast cancer on both sides of her family so she is at even greater risk. I urge her and others to take the possibility of breast cancer seriously and get regular check ups. Together we can conquer this. I take part in Race for the Cure and hope other women are listening to our message.”