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 $700,000 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.
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.
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.”