PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women.
The U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee cites the risk to be up to 40% higher for women veterans and U.S. servicewomen.
Those are troubling numbers that underscore the need for early detection and early treatment. That’s the message a local veterans hospital is emphasizing to women who’ve served.
“We’re encouraging women to get their screening mammograms,” stated Amanda Olaviany, Women’s Veterans Program Manager, at Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center
On National Mammography Day, the table in the first-floor lobby of the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center was dedicated to the health version of “I got your six”.
Olavainy explained to passersby that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Friday marked Go Pink Day at the VA, an event coordinated by Olavinay, who had a particular goal in mind.
“To encourage women to have a conversation with their provider about their breast health,” said Olavinay.
Helping out at Go Pink Day is someone who knows firsthand how important that can be.
“It was a shock. It was, like, this can’t be happening,” recalled Liz Cope, a veteran, and breast cancer survivor.
54-year-old Cope has served in the Army since the 1990s, first as a critical care nurse. But in 2014, she became the patient and battle-tested in a way she never expected. During a monthly breast self-exam, she discovered what felt like a bb in her left breast. The diagnosis she received was stunning.
“It was pretty advanced. It was an aggressive cancer. It was…stage 3. So, if I waited any longer I probably wouldn’t be here today,” explained Cope.
Cope underwent a mastectomy and other treatments. She has been cancer-free ever since.
“I was like ‘I’m going to beat this. This is not me. I’m going to keep going,'” described Cope.
And she has. Cope currently coaches and trains servicemen and servicewomen entering the military on providing the best care for patients. As a cancer survivor, she also serves in another way: a living example of the importance of early detection and early treatment.
“I hope that women realize how important it is for prevention. You can survive it. It’s survivable if you catch it early,” said Cope.
Organizers of Go Pink Day at the VA say their event also aims to support those who are fighting breast cancer and remember those we’ve lost to the disease.