Positively Pink, a cancer awareness and educational event hosted by Phelps Memorial Health Center, was held at the First Presbyterian Church. Over 100 women were educated about available prevention screenings for cancer and were inspired by Gina Baker, a cancer survivor, from St. Edward, NE.
Paula Keffeler, Imaging Leader at Phelps Memorial Health Center, updated the attendees on the current screenings and options available for prevention. She said, “My position in your care is not to prevent breast cancer, but it is to find it as early as possible. We can take care of you.”
Breast cancer is sometimes found after symptoms appear, but many women with breast cancer have no symptoms. This is why regular breast cancer screenings are so important.
Stacey VanBoening, APRN, Phelps Memorial Health Center, gave the attendees an update on some of the recent changes with the Phelps Memorial Oncology team including the addition of Dr. Nathan Green and Dr. Steven Dunder. Both are oncologists with Southeast Nebraska Cancer Center who are visiting specialists at Phelps Memorial.
Mrs. VanBoening stated, “I’m incredibly excited about our partnership with Dr. Green and Dr. Dunder. They are incredible oncologists and their personalities are going to mesh incredibly well with the people that we serve here in Holdrege.” She added, “We are currently at the Phelps Medical Plaza, but in the spring will be located in a new oncology area located within the new construction at Phelps Memorial Health Center.”
She said that many people that have had cancer ask her questions such as: “If I’ve already had cancer do I still need to get other screenings? Do I need colonoscopies and mammograms? I’ve already been treated.” She said the answer is “Yes. The cancer screenings are so incredibly important.”
Mrs. VanBoening said that “One in eight women are going to be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.” She added that only 15% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have a relative that has breast cancer. Less than 7% of those women actually have a heredity to breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. Currently, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a 1 in 8 chance she will develop breast cancer.
The two biggest risks factors for breast cancer are “aging and the fact that we are women. We can’t change either of those but we can try to catch it early,” said Mrs. VanBoening. She added, “I pray that someday my job is strictly cancer prevention. Until then we have to screen and catch it early.”
She told the audience that starting at age 40 they should have a mammogram done on an annual basis.
The American Cancer Society's estimates for breast cancer in the United States for 2019 are:
- About 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
- About 62,930 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS) will be diagnosed (CIS is non-invasive and is the earliest form of breast cancer).
- About 41,760 women will die from breast cancer
The keynote speaker for the evening was Gina Baker, a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer October 28, 2014. Her goal was to make it five years past her diagnosis. She’s a mental health therapist who shared her cancer journey. Her hope was that everyone would walk away from the Positively Pink event learning something from her.
In her cancer journey story, she told attendees how her daughter, an avid hiker, signed her and her husband up for a 19 mile hike at Glacier National Park prior to her 50th birthday. She said that although a struggle, she wasn’t about to quit. In the following weeks she was having some aches and pains and had concerns. She felt it was something serious with her ovaries, but her providers couldn’t find anything. She saw five specialists over a period of five years. She had CT scans for tumors on her kidneys yet nothing yet had showed her ovarian cancer. She was finally diagnosed. That began the journey she is now on.
She uses the acronym F.O.C.U.S. and for survivors to keep focus in their journey every day.
- F – Fun
- O – Opportunity
- C – Current (be present)
- U – Unclutter (relationships)
- S – Signs (God puts them everywhere, just look)
Mrs. Baker stated, “You don’t have to have cancer to have the acronym of focus. It’s about what you put into your life and the chapters that you write your story with.”
She said she tries not to complain because she knows there are so many others who are in worse situations.
Mrs. Baker’s physician told her that she would never hear the word remission. She said, “We knew from the beginning that this will be a long journey with mountains to climb and valleys, but as long as we were in the fight it was going to be a good thing.”
She stated, “My cancer journey is going to be like that 19 mile hike – we are going to have fun, I’m going to be scared out of my mind, and I don’t know what cancer looks like on a hike, but I know it’s going to be tough and we are going to get through it.”