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
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.