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Through the years, my sisters and I thought breast cancer was an inherited tendency in our family. The oncologist did not support this theory, because of the ages at death of those involved. Our mother died at the early age of 36. Jeanne was next at the age of 45, then Marguerite at 59 and finally Ginny at 70.

Mammography was first developed in 1960, but was not used much until 1974, when the availability was more widespread. It could not have saved the lives of my mother, and two of three sisters, because it just wasn’t there.

In 1974, when I learned that my youngest sister, Jeanne, had cancer, it was not talked about in public. She said, “Friends would pass me and whisper, ‘Oh, the poor thing has cancer, but we must not talk about it'.” At that time, women put their faith in their doctors, and usually accepted the fate of cancer. Not my sister! She wrote to her family and told them of her situation and even her 10-year-old son was very knowledgeable about the medical terms. Jeanne even led a support group in Houston, Tex., where they lived. She died in early 1975.

Marguerite, my oldest sister, was the next to die from the dreaded disease. Hers was discovered even before Jeanne’s. She had several surgeries, chemo and radiation, but cancer still claimed her life in 1976.

Another sister, Virginia, developed breast cancer in the early ’90s. She would have her radiation treatments in the morning, go to a swim fitness class, and then on to work as a legal secretary. Mammograms were available, but she did not have them. She died in 1990.

My own early mammograms were done at Calhoun General Hospital as a routine annual check up. I also became part of the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial. Mammograms were discontinued on a local basis, causing me to appreciate a service that was no longer available. The biggest obstacle in having them done out of town was communicating with strangers who did not understand about traveling on rural roads or care about arrangements that needed to be made to be absent from work and child care.

Now we are blessed with the new mammography unit right on our doorstep. Parking is convenient, appointments can be scheduled around a busy schedule, child care, and available transportation, and the staff has a passion for their work.

Accreditation will soon be complete and the long-awaited scheduling will take place.

The facility is here, but needs to be used. Plan to have your routine screenings performed in Calhoun.

 

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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