Breast and Cervical Health Check
River resident Jennie Hargrove took up beadwork last year to
keep busy while undergoing chemotherapy after she was diagnosed
with breast cancer. Sitting still was a bit unfamiliar to Jennie
who, at 38, loves to camp, fish and comb the rugged beaches
along Kachemak Bay. An active volunteer in her children’s
school, Jennie also sews and paints ceramics.
it was making beadwork jewelry and gifts that became a passion
during her cancer therapy. “I was making things for everybody
- holidays, birthdays, anniversaries all become very special
when you think one might be your last,” says Jennie, who
was diagnosed during the summer of 2001.
finding a lump in her breast, Jennie called the Kachemak Bay
Family Planning Clinic in Homer, where she’d gone for
routine health exams all her life. The clinic is one of a growing
number of health care clinics that enroll women in Alaska’s
breast and cervical cancer early detection program, known as
Breast and Cervical Health Check.
and her husband, Leland, have no health insurance. The couple
was relieved to learn that the screening exams would be covered
by the federally funded program.
of Jennie’s mammogram were suspicious, and she was soon
referred to a diagnostic provider in Anchorage. It was in Anchorage,
while she was trying on wigs with her husband, young daughters
and a close family friend, that Jennie received a call on her
cell phone, confirming the diagnosis.
had been a lighthearted moment suddenly turned somber. Even
though Jennie and her family had suspected cancer, the room
grew quiet as the news sank in. “I started to sweat and
feel tingly and really dizzy all over.” Jennie recalls.
wasn’t long before Jennie, once again accompanied by family
and friends, made her first trip between Homer and Anchorage
for chemotherapy treatment. Like other women who are diagnosed
with breast or cervical cancer while they are enrolled in the
Breast and Cervical Health Check program, Jennie’s treatment
was covered by Medicaid.
to quickly kill growing cancer cells, chemotherapy can temporarily
deplete patients, making them feel nauseated and weak. The side
effects of chemotherapy vary, depending on the dosage and patient.
Jennie reacted almost immediately: Less than 100 miles south
of Anchorage, Jennie began vomiting and stayed sick the rest
of the way home.
in Anchor River after her first chemo treatment, Jennie opted
for short hair. Therapy typically causes hair loss and Jennie
– who had waist-length hair like her daughters –
found that even her short hair would fall out. “About
three weeks later I was running my hand through my hair and
it just started to come out in clumps” she recalls. “My
oldest daughter came over and knelt at my feet and ran her fingers
through my hair and cried.”
a year after her ordeal, Jennie says she has refocused her life
to include the things that matter. Classes in anthropology,
drawing and yogo that she never seemed to have time for are
on her schedule. She spends more time with her daughters, Tarah,
15 and Julian, 9. She feels more assertive.
is a journey and when you have cancer, it’s just part
of the journey,” Jennie says. “There is life afterwards.”