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‘Hope’ speaker stresses early detection as key

After her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1970s, Diane Davies faithfully had her own mammogram and exam each year.

Then in 2003, at age 56, she received the dreaded phone call telling her something had been found on the mammogram and she needed to return for a magnified view.

It was decided they would take another look in six months, so Davies made the appointment and never gave it another thought until about two weeks before the scheduled mammogram.

She noticed in the mirror that her right breast appeared different than her left.

“I remembered my mother telling me after her mastectomy that she had watched her breast grow and change for over a year before she gave in and went to the doctor,” Davies told the room full of women at the Rainy River District Breast Health Network’s “Luncheon of Hope” on Saturday afternoon at La Place Rendez-Vous here.

“I pretty much froze with the realization and terror of what I was now seeing on my own body,” she recounted.

Davies, from Hastings, Mn., was guest speaker at the biennial event, which celebrates breast cancer survivors and urges women to practice total breast health.

“Her story really cements the message that we’re promoting—that early detection is the best protection,” said Teresa Hazel, who chairs the Breast Health Network.

“There are treatment options and the sooner it’s detected, the better,” she stressed.

Davies choose to have a bilateral mastectomy, and was fortunate to not require chemotherapy or radiation.

“But I still don’t know if it’s going to reappear,” she conceded.

Yet Davies said her journey, which she recorded in a journal, taught her many lessons that she shared during the luncheon:

•It’s not my timetable;

•Help comes from unexpected sources;

•Love comes in many different forms;

•Be a gracious receiver;

•Every day offers a choice;

•Don’t sweat the small stuff; and

•Gratitude heals and motivates.

With encouragement from her daughter, Davies published her journal, titling it “From There to Here: A Breast Cancer Journey.”

She also became an advocate for breast cancer survivors, serving as co-leader of the Hastings Breast Cancer Support Group and volunteering as a “Reach to Recovery” co-ordinator with the American Cancer Society.

In addition, Davies is executive director of the newly-formed “Circle in the Field: Peer Support for Breast Cancer” organization.

And in 2009, with writer/producer Marisha Chamberlain, Davies created the documentary concept, led fundraising efforts, and served as line producer for what would become, in 2010, “Voices of Hope”—a DVD for newly-diagnosed breast cancer patients.

“Breast cancer can strike you at any age,” Davies warned, noting her breast support group includes members in their late 20s up to age 96.

“I’m hoping a cure will be found before my daughter and granddaughter go through the breast cancer journey,” she added, citing due to the family history, there is a strong chance her offspring will develop breast cancer, as well.

She indicated other risk factors include gender and age, since breast cancer is more likely in women and those over 55 years.

Obesity and alcohol also seem to be risk factors.

“But as things change, breast cancer journeys are getting better and better,” Davies said.

Those attending the “Luncheon of Hope” enjoyed a meal of soup and wraps, in addition to many raffle draws and giveaways.

Zumba instructor Margitta McLeod offered up a demonstration of the Latin-inspired dance fitness program to promote overall wellness—and also presented $647 to the Breast Health Network raised from the “Zumba Pink Party” held here earlier this month.

Patti Johnson, director of Diagnostic Services at Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., noted a campaign has begun to purchase a digital mammography unit given the current film mammography machine is somewhat dated.

She said a digital unit is safer for the technologist, develops optimal images, has the ability to zoom in and out, and would improve work flow.

“I think it was a great afternoon,” Hazel enthused. “There were some new faces, which was really nice to see.

“It’s always a good thing that new people are coming out and hearing the message, and hopefully starting to think about and practice total breast health,” she reasoned.

Hazel thanked all the women for attending the event, as well as those who donated prizes.

In related news, tickets still are being sold for the “Quilt for a Cure” raffle, contributed by the Cabin Country Quilt Guild and Betty Pryde.

The draw will be held Dec. 14 at Riverside.

For more information about the Rainy River District Breast Health Network and its programs, call 274-1900.

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