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Keynote speaker at luncheon striving to affect attitude change

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“Go get a mammogram" is the one message breast cancer survivor Bonnie Thomson of Winnipeg hopes to get across to women when she speaks at the annual "Luncheon of Hope” here Saturday.

“If I could affect just one person, I would be thrilled,” stressed Thomson, 53, in a phone interview Monday.

At age 51, she was diagnosed with a malignant breast tumor, which resulted in a mastectomy.

Thomson admitted that prior to her diagnosis and surgery, she had paid little attention to regular breast self-examination or mammographies—even though as a registered nurse she knew all about the process.

“This was very much a wake-up call for me. I thought it couldn't happen to me and as a nurse, I was certainly well aware,” she said.

“I had always promised myself I would get [checked] and I never did.”

Thomson said she was at a bridge club meeting where every woman around the table but her had had a mammography. So she figured she'd better get one.

“If I hadn't gone for that exam, my life would have been very different,” she added.

When doctors diagnosed Thomson's breast tumor, they told her x-rays would have been able to detect it three years prior to the time she decided to get her first mammogram.

And because the tumor had gone undetected for so long, cancerous cells had spread to Thomson's lymph nodes, which meant chemotherapy as well.

Meanwhile, “Luncheon of Hope” co-chair Suzanne Thomson said she's hoping to see 200-250 women out for Saturday's event, which gets underway at 11:30 a.m. at La Place Rendez-Vous.

She's also encouraging younger women like herself to attend. At 24, Thomson also has had a wake-up call to take better care of herself.

“She's my mom,” enthused Thomson of Saturday's keynote speaker.

“Mammograms have always been promoted for women over 50," she noted. [But breast cancer] can be found in younger women [and] I want to bring an awareness to a younger group,” she said.

She also warned that a “cancer-free” family history doesn't cut it as an excuse for ignoring breast mammography—as her own mother did.

“It was never in our family. Cancer was something that nobody had and never thought of," she explained. "Thank God doctors found [my mom's] right away.”

Bonnie Thomson also has written an article on her experiences in dealing with breast cancer for “Canadian Living” that will be published in the December issue, due out at the end of this month.

The luncheon will kick off with a mix and mingle at 11:30 a.m., followed by the luncheon at 12:30 p.m. and then Thomson's speech.

The event, organized by the Rainy River District Breast Health Network, also will feature information booths from Avon, Shoppers' Home Health Care, Canadian Cancer Society, and the Breast Education Clinic at La Verendrye hospital.

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