CUYAHOGA FALLS: For Kathy Giller, the words uttered by her husband changed their lives.
“I have breast cancer are not the words you would expect to hear from your husband,” Giller told a group of health-care advocates at an information and training breast health session Thursday morning. “Breast cancer is a disease that can strike anyone, regardless of your economic stature, your skin color, age and even your gender.”
About 80 community health leaders and volunteers launched a grassroots program at the Sheraton Suites to help get the word out about breast care services for the uninsured, low-income and medically underserved women in the Akron area.
The statistics are sobering. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Ohio is ranked the 32nd state in the country for incidents of breast cancer but ranked fourth in mortality.
The goal of the grassroots project to train community volunteers is to change Ohio’s statistics by raising awareness for early detection and self awareness. Four of the volunteers onboard already are cancer survivors.
The project is funded by a $1 million grant from KeyBank in keeping with the focus of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the world’s largest breast cancer organization, to lower death rates from the disease. A similar effort was kicked off in Cleveland earlier this month.
“Breast cancer came knocking on our door nearly seven years ago. Actually cancer doesn’t knock, it comes barging in like an unexpected, uninvited guest,” Giller said. “No one is ever prepared for those life-altering words, ‘I have breast cancer,’ and surely most people don’t expect to hear those words coming from their husbands.”
She said her husband found a lump in his chest and it wasn’t until it started hurting months later that he got it checked out. He thought it was a cyst.
“My otherwise healthy and fit husband at the age of 48 was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer,” she said. “My husband had a mastectomy and had 17 lymph nodes removed, endured eight rounds of chemo and 33 radiation treatments.”
Lee Giller had more than 70 appointments with internists, breast surgeons, oncologists, radiologists and many lab tests.
“This was a rough chapter in our lives, but it got worse,” said cancer survivor Lee Giller. “Having three children, we were concerned about inherited risks passed onto the next generation. Our children had a 50 percent chance of carrying my gene and if it was passed on to our children, they had a 90 percent chance of getting breast cancer.”
He said their oldest daughter, who is 28, was tested and was found to have the gene. Because of her diligence with clinical breast exams, she was diagnosed early with breast cancer and is not a statistic.
“Breast cancer is diagnosed every two minutes and a woman dies of breast cancer every 13 minutes in the United States,” said KeyCorp chairman and CEO Beth E. Mooney in a written statement. “Its impact is especially devastating for women of color, who are more likely to die from breast cancer, and for poor or uninsured women.”
Sophie Sureau of Komen in Northeast Ohio said knowledge is power in defeating breast cancer, and waiting is not a strategy. She said the 36 local volunteers will be trained as health advisers who will educate and provide critical support to women facing breast cancer.
She said there are real concerns for people who are not seeking screening and treatment, such as the fear of job loss, no health insurance and not having access to treatment. These are roadblocks and challenges that face the uninsured, low-income and medically underserved women in the Akron area.
Key Bank officials said the community health program will serve more than 110,000 women in 18 KeyBank communities, including Canton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo in Ohio. The program is expected to expand to train more than 500 advisers over the next two years.
The first Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Akron will be held July 29. It will start at Firestone Stadium and end at Firestone Country Club.
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.