DES MOINES, Iowa-- October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Unity Point Health Care is doing a special program for women with little to no insurance to be able to get a mammogram outside of regular office hours.
UnityPoint's Pink Days Program is for women 40 and older, who meet financial requirements to come and get their annual mammogram.
According to Gina Mandernach, the Oncology Outreach Coordinator for the John Stoddard Cancer Center, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer.
My mother, Sally Daly Barczewski, and grandmother, Carmen Zimmerman Daly, both had breast cancer. My mother is a survivor and said it’s important to bring awareness to this common disease.
Just like this disease is hereditary in my family, it was the same case for a central Iowa breast cancer survivor, Kelly Schall.
"I found a lump in my breast and that's what started everything. Things moved quite quickly and then I met with Doctor Hanling. He was my first doctor I had met with and he said this is what our plan is going to be: it was chemo, surgery, which would be the bilateral mastectomy, radiation and then I had a radical hysterectomy also because I had the BRCA gene."
Regular self exams and mammograms are two key components to detecting signs of breast cancer.
"You want to catch it as early as possible and that's why mammograms are so important. They can detect very small tumors . Women should also be doing their self breast awareness just periodically, more or less just knowing their breast tissue so they can detect changes as early as possible," Mandernach said.
Schall says she had a great support system and one moment in her journey sticks out to her.
"We got the call and I said what stage am I in after she had said it's more aggressive than we expected. And I said well what stage am I in and she said well we don't give out stages until we know what the treatment is going to be. And I got off the phone and my husband and I both cried because I said what is going to happen if they tell me there is nothing they can do. And I had a friend of mine that called me and I called and told her and she called me afterwards and she said first off nobody's going to tell you you can't survive and secondly snowmageddon is coming, what do you want from the grocery store," Mandernach.
After about a year and a half of treatment Schall survived stage 3 breast cancer and I asked her what she would say to someone who's just diagnosed.
"I'm sorry. That would be the first thing I would say and stay strong. But you know you hear that all throughout when you have cancer. You know stay strong, you are strong, you're so strong and all that. I don't know any other way to be. And I don't think that anyone doesn't want to be strong, I think that it's just a hard thing to get through,” Schall said.
On October 21, UnityPoint is having a Pink Saturday where women 40-years-old and over, who've registered, can come get their annual mammogram done at times beyond normal business hours.
Mandernach said they hold Pink Saturday because they don't want normal office hours to keep women away from that opportunity.