Kathy Helmick, a long-time breast cancer survivor, told Monday's gathering at Jawbone Park in Buckhannon that she wants to help others beat the disease, saying a lack of time and a lack of money are no reasons to put off preventative care.
"I want to make sure I can reduce your excuse," she said at the event kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Upshur County. "There's no excuse for putting off a mammogram. Take the time to get your examination."
The director of the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program, Helmick said there is funding and medical staff in place to help those women ages 50-64 without health insurance get necessary care, such as yearly mammograms.
"We know it does find breast cancer early," she said. "That's how I found mine, and it would have been two years before it would have been noticed in a self-examination."
Dr. Susan Long, a surgeon at St. Joseph's Hospital in Buckhannon, said she feels "blessed" to be practicing medicine during a time when so much research is being done. She recalled how that was not the case when she was just starting her career in medicine.
"We have to give thanks for the women who came before us and made a big noise in the 1980s," she said.
But many of those life-saving programs are in jeopardy, another doctor said, as Congress looks for ways to slash the federal budget. Dr. Kimberly Farry urged the women in the audience to write their representatives and to invite lawmakers to fund-raising walks to show the importance of the programs and continued funding for research.
Should a family member receive that dreaded diagnosis, there is a support group in Buckhannon to help ease the burden on the recipient and her family and friends. The Breast Cancer Support Group meets at 7 p.m. on the third Monday of each month at the South Buckhannon Mission Church.
"When I lived in Maryland, we had a good support group, and it was very helpful the first time I was diagnosed," said Barbara Murray, who noted she recently learned the cancer reappeared after 14 years.
Murray told the women they have to be vigilant in their efforts to prevent breast cancer.
"You have to be constantly on the alert," she said. "Just because it's been a while, doesn't mean it won't come back."