Judy Hollingshead has survived breast cancer. Twice. And she owes it to monthly breast self-exams and mammograms, she says.
Hollingshead found a lump during a self-exam when she was 36. The doctor told her she should biopsy it, but he was sure it wasn’t cancer: She was too young.
It was cancer.
After radiation treatment, Hollingshead’s cancer went into remission for nine years, but it showed up again in a mammogram. Hollingshead had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery, and she has been in remission for nearly 15 years since.
“The secret is that I was doing all of the right things,” she says.
That’s one of the reasons why Hollingshead, a registered nurse at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, is on the planning committee for the Stepping Out Against Breast Cancer dance and has been volunteering for it nearly all of the 18 years it has been going on.
“I think it’s raising awareness, and it’s making women unafraid to talk about breast health and to seek help early. There are some cultures in the world where breast cancer is a taboo topic…where it’s kind of a private, hidden thing. Having it out there for the whole month of October makes it so people can talk about it,” Hollingshead says.
Stepping Out Against Breast Cancer, an annual benefit dance for the LMH Endowment, supports the fight against breast cancer. All of the money raised stays in the community and is used to pay for educational materials, prosthetics, wigs and mammograms for women who cannot afford them, says Heather Ackerly, of LMH Endowment.
This year’s event, themed “Stamp Out Breast Cancer,” will be Oct. 30. Hollingshead says that the committee has been saving up cereal and other food boxes to cover in novelty stamps with breast cancer themes as table centerpieces.
“I try to remember it’s about something deeper than just fun. It’s an opportunity to reach people,” Hollingshead says.
Disco Dick and the Mirror Balls will be playing for the dance. People also typically dress up in Halloween costumes, she says.
Another committee member and LMH employee Carrie Rangel is part of the grand prize committee. She says the grand prize this year will hopefully be an electronics package. Last year, it was an “economic stimulus package,” which included gift cards to many different businesses in Lawrence. Prizes are awarded to those who make donations at the event.
Rangel is also a breast cancer survivor who had been to the event before her diagnosis, but started volunteering three years ago after her own diagnosis.
“It’s a lot. The diagnosis of breast cancer is tough to swallow anyway, and then with the extra financial stuff it’s even worse,” she says.
That’s one reason Rangel chooses to volunteer. She says that in the past, her favorite parts of the event included the dance, the costumes, the prizes, the skits, and especially when the survivors are recognized and presented with a rose. But this year, despite her membership on the committee, she won’t be able to attend the dance itself. Instead, she will be participating in a three-day Susan G. Komen walk in Tampa, Fla., with her husband.
The event is held at Crown Automotive, where Connie Beebe says preparations for the event have to begin well in advance.
“Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning,” she says. All of cars in the showroom are moved outside to make room for an expected 500 to 600 people, she says.
Crown donates the space free of charge so that all of the proceeds can go straight to the cause, she says.
“Breast cancer affects a large number of people, and by hosting the event, it helps attract attention,” she says.
Stepping Out Against Breast Cancer runs from 8 p.m. to 11:45 p.m. at Crown Automotive, 3400 Iowa. All guests must be 18 or older to enter.