Kalamazoo, MI—Peggy Dunigan didn’t have a job or health insurance when she first noticed pain in her left breast. However, unlike many women who find themselves in this frightening predicament, she knew whom to call.
Dunigan had previously received a free mammogram through the Pink Saturdays program so she banked on the hope that it would be there for her again. Days later, on her way to church, she spotted a billboard on Park Street in Kalamazoo with the Pink Saturdays toll-free number to call. Dunigan circled the block several times to capture it.
“I thought, don’t panic, there is help”, says Dunigan. “Since I had a symptom, the scheduler told me I had to be referred directly to BCCCP (Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program). The scheduler was comforting and helpful,” she adds. Within a day, BCCCP had followed up with her and she was on her way to the hospital for an ultra-sound and biopsy. Dunigan soon learned she had an aggressive form of breast cancer but that it was detected at the earliest stage. Her outlook was optimistic.
“When you hear the word, ‘cancer’, you think, am I going to die? But, everything was explained to me in a language that I could understand and I was reassured the cost would be covered,” says Dunigan.
Dunigan, an African-American woman with no family history of breast cancer, says if there is one thing she wants to say to other women, it’s this: “YOU ARE IMPORTANT, take care of your body. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone”. Now, with her treatment program complete, Dunigan is trying to move on with her life. She has plans to return to school to earn a degree in accounting.
Lori Mercedes, a member of the Hispanic community, was a young mother when she noticed a lump in her breast. “We have a strong Hispanic community here, so I first went to the women within it for their opinion. My physician finally told me I had cancer.”
“After a consultation with my doctor and 25 members of my family, we decided on the most aggressive form of treatment. My physician and all my caregivers treated me like a human being with respect and support,” says Mercedes.
“I am blessed to be part of a strong group of women survivors”, says Mercedes. They were brutally honest with me and made me realize that life is about the “real” stuff. I have a wonderful family and now have two beautiful daughters of my own – 5 years and 4 months old.”
Lori has the same message as Peggy – “Get informed! Your family needs you, your children, your mother, aunts, etc.. So take charge of your health, for them and for you.”
“Cancer has no color”, say Dr. Joseph Mirro, President and CEO of the West Michigan Cancer Center and Chairperson of Pink Saturdays. “This year we have a strong initiative to make sure ALL eligible women take an active role in breast health and have the opportunity for a free mammogram”, he adds.
Free screening mammograms are available to uninsured women, age 40-64, in eight Southwest Michigan counties: Allegan, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren. The toll-free number to call is 1-800-873-0649.
The public is invited to attend the official launch of the 2012 Pink Saturdays campaign on Tuesday, September 25 at 9:00 am at Galilee Baptist Church, 1216 North Westnedge in Kalamazoo. Galilee Senior Pastor, Dr. Michael T. Scott, strongly believes in the connection of spirituality and wellness. “I am pleased to support the Pink Saturday initiative because breast cancer is something that affects all of us. My hope is that this program will raise the level of awareness among African-American women and other people of color as it relates to the issue of breast cancer”.
Partners in the Pink Saturday 2012 initiative include: Borgess Health and its satellite facilities; Premier Radiology; Bronson Center for Women; Bronson Diagnostics at Woodbridge; Bronson Lakeview Hospital; Bronson Vicksburg Hospital; Bronson Battle Creek; Advanced Radiology Services PC—Kalamazoo Division; Mary Coleman Mammography; Community Health Center of Branch County; Branch Medical Imaging; Oaklawn Hospital; Radiology Consultants; Sturgis Hospital; Summit Radiology; Allegan General Hospital; Southwest Michigan Radiology; Lakeland HealthCare; Radiology Associates of Berrien County; South Haven Community Hospital; Three Rivers Health; Michigan State University-Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies; West Michigan Cancer Center; Southwest Michigan Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program; Southwest Michigan Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Access Breast Cancer Screenings.