On a cloudy, chilly spring day, the flowers on Mary Reeves’ front porch are a reminder that warmer and sunnier days are ahead. For Mary, that is how it was after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Mary had reason to fear cancer – she lost a sister to breast cancer as well as several friends and church members. Also, she works one day a week as a caregiver for the Tankersley family – Danny and his two children, Kyle and Emma. Lisa Tankersley – Danny’s wife and Kyle and Emma’s mom – had passed away from breast cancer in 2006 at the age of 46. “I have seen how devastating breast cancer is, and that is why I always had regular mammograms,” explains Mary. That is, until she was laid off from her job at Ampex a few years ago.
“I always participated in the walks (Relay For Life for the American Cancer Society) and I heard about the free mammograms at EAMC. It was just time – I had not had one in about four years since I lost my health insurance after I was laid off,” she adds.
Mary went to Auburn Diagnostic Imaging in October 2009 and received her mammogram, but was shaken several days later when she was called back for a biopsy. “Ms. Colleen (Colleen Alsobrook, Breast Health Navigator at EAMC) was so nice and helpful. She was with me every step of the way. She still keeps in touch with me.”
The biopsy revealed breast cancer. “It was about the size of a dime or a grape,” Mary says. “I never felt it.” Fortunately, the tumor had not spread to her lymph nodes, and when it was removed, she was put on a chemotherapy regimen with no additional treatments deemed necessary. “I just have to take my pill every day for five years, and they said that should take care of it,” she explains. Mary received a clean bill of health at her three-month post-surgical check-up in March. “They told me I don’t need to come back for six months,” adds Mary. “I am back at work now and I don’t have time to get depressed!” And, Mary walked in the 2010 Relay For Life on May 7, where she wore a pink t-shirt to honor the memory of a friend whom she lost to breast cancer.
Mary is a vibrant, active woman who loves helping others. She is important in the lives of her children, Gwen and Kenneth, and her grandson, Kentavious, who graduated from Opelika High School this spring. And there are the others whose lives she touches – Jacob Walker, Sr., who Mary visits four days a week, the Tankersleys, as well as friends and family members, church friends and neighbors. All are glad that Mary is alive and well – thanks in part to the EAMC Foundation and the free mammogram program.
There are many more women like Mary in our community – women who are uninsured or underinsured and cannot pay the out-of-pocket expense for a mammogram. Young or mature, unemployed or underemployed, these women are our mothers, wives, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, friends.… If there is a woman in your life whom you would like to honor through a gift to the Cancer Center of East Alabama Breast Health Fund, please call the EAMC Foundation at 334-528-5874.