Breast and Cervical Health Check
is a woman whose brown eyes sparkle and whose energy jumps all
over the room when she breezes in. An ardent outdoors person
and adventurer, she has summited Denali as an apprentice guide,
cooked in remote survey camps and on a crab boat, and supervised
cannery crews at the docks in Kasilof. Char was a married woman,
enjoying a physically demanding job and training and racing
skijor dogs when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February
2001. Like the other challenges in her life, she met breast
cancer with courage, determination, and a positive outlook.
This is her story.
do not smoke and rarely have a drink. I take very good care
of this strong little body I have been blessed with. I always
wear my seat belt, drive with my headlights on, check the smoke
alarms and fire extinguishers in my house, and wear a helmet
on a machine. Having worked as a nurse’s aide, I realize
that there are no guarantees I will wake up every morning healthy,
so I do whatever I can to minimize risk factors. There is no
history of breast cancer in my family.
cannery was closed so I was unemployed and my husband was laid
off from his construction job. I was thinking about putting
off my mammogram until work picked up again in the spring. Fate
intervened when a pleasant woman going door to door stopped
by my house to tell me about an early detection program that
would pay for my mammogram if I couldn’t afford one. If
I had been at work, running my dogs, or skiing, I might have
missed the outreach worker’s visit and waited too long.
since we met the monthly income guidelines, I got my mammogram
instead of putting it off. It’s a good thing I did. The
pathologist found three different types of cancer "in my
one little left breast". One type of cancer was very, very
small, but very, very aggressive.
opted for a mastectomy. One of the reasons was to avoid the
expense of radiation and reconstruction. Although the screening
for breast cancer was covered when I was diagnosed, treatment
was not. Thankfully, that’s not the case for women today.
would like to note the incredibly competent and caring surgeons,
anesthesiologist, physician, pathologist, radiologist, nurses
and aides who provided such wonderful care here at our local
hospital. My friends and family helped out with whatever I needed
done, whether it be feeding my dogs or bringing me meals. The
outpouring of support was overwhelming.
message is "Get your mammogram NOW." I’ll be
getting mine every April. Already three of my friends made appointments
to get mammograms that they’ve been putting off. Women
can continue to live meaningful lives when their cancer is discovered
and treated early. I am happily and healthily surviving.