BUCKHANNON — October 1 was declared West Virginia Breast Cancer Awareness Day in Upshur County and a rally was held at Stockert Youth and Community Center to raise awareness, honor survivors and remember those lost to the disease.
Breast cancer is nothing foreign to our understanding, for it has long been a battle for many women and even some men. Mayor Dave McCauley issued his official proclamation, in addition to recognizing October as WV Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
According to studies, an estimated 1,470 West Virginia women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and approximately 290 women will die from the disease in 2019. Speakers at this year’s Upshur County Breast Cancer Awareness Day rally stated that a woman has about a 1-in-8, or 12.5 percent, chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime and has about a 1-in-38, or 2.6 percent chance of dying from the cancer.
The ceremony began with a prayer over the refreshments and then a reading of the Mayor’s proclamation by Upshur County Commission President Sam Nolte and Buckhannon City Councilor Mary Albaugh.
Following the proclamation, Dr. Amy Coffman addressed many important statistics and precautions concerning the disease. “Hopefully we’re getting our screenings and mammograms and things we should do for early detection; we may not even happen to pick up on the signs. But we also need to know what we are supposed to be looking for,” Coffman stated. “Sometimes doing the screenings and scientific evidence shows us it may not help anyone get diagnosed or what they are hoping to find or not find,” Coffman mentioned.
“However, for many, let’s say we never got around to scheduling a mammogram or thought we did. We look back and notice it’s been a few years but somewhere along the way you’re feeling your breast. You know what they are supposed to feel like and look like. If you’re ok with doing self breast exams and perhaps you feel something that wasn’t there few months ago. You know your own body best and maybe something’s going on and you can seek help, or this will trigger you to get that screening you need to get,” she continued. Dr. Coffman made sure to deeply emphasize the importance of detection with the changes in women’s bodies and the proper methods when doing self-examinations. “It’s very important that we stay educated and up-to-date with these matters as much as we can,” Coffman advised.
A few of the survivors had a chance to speak on their experiences. Linda Wolfe told her story of her experience with breast cancer and how upon receiving her diagnosis, she had not identified any indications for the cancer. Wolfe sought out medical attention at the cancer center in Morgantown. “They’re pretty quick about telling you when something might be there as you begin to piece everything together,” Wolfe mentioned. “But I had my mammogram last year on December 27, 2018 and on January 4 it came back positive that I had cancer in my breast,” Wolfe said. “But here’s the thing ladies, my cancer was not a lump. It didn’t look any different and I couldn’t tell any difference. I couldn’t feel anything. I had a type of cancer called Lobular Carcinoma. The kind of breast cancer I had, it didn’t show up like a normal lump would,” Wolfe shared. This type of breast cancer is a disease that occurs in the breast lobes which are the areas of the breast that produce milk.
Wolfe continued to share her inspirational story. She shared how it can be a bit more difficult to locate any signs of breast cancer, considering her hidden cancer discovery. She said, “The chemotherapy had done nothing to reduce the size of what was in my breast. It had been decided that my left breast be removed. Later that year, I received word from the pathologist report. The physicians had previously removed 14 nodes from underneath my arm. They gave me a report that there was no cancer in my lymph nodes and that I have had a scan prior to that showing no cancer in my body. Praise God, I am cancer free!” she exclaimed.
Each of the ten survivors present were escorted through the archway to receive a pink rose, all generously provided by Fred Brooks Garden Club. Seven wreathes, also provided by the FBGC, were delivered to several places around town, including the Courthouse, City Hall, the Health Department and Center for Women’s Health, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Day. The ceremony concluded with gift card drawings, door prize drawings and a bubble launch.
Any individual with concerns of breast cancer should research risk factors. It is important to know what is normal and to understand and learn about breast cancer. Go to clinical exams and follow up with the physician if there are concerns. Most importantly, be an encouragement for each other and remain strong.