The Milford Public Library is putting a local twist on a national effort during Breast Cancer Awareness Month by recognizing local survivors and offering a free informational event next week.
When patrons walk in the front door of the library, it’s nearly impossible to miss the shining pink tree, surrounded by library materials related to breast cancer awareness as well as a bulletin-board tribute to local survivors. This “Celebrate the Survivors” display includes the names of those involved in the Living for Cancer Support Group in Milford, as well as a pink table set up on the first floor of the library.
“Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important to our community and so are our local survivors,” said Milford Public Library Program Coordinator Carolyn Tabor. “It’s about celebrating them. It’s a sensitive subject. It’s personal, and because it’s so personal, we just want to let people know we care.”
And for Milford resident and breast cancer survivor Phyllis Fisher, who has been cancer free for 20 years, sharing information and stories about dealing with the disease is half the battle.
“It’s important for people to get together and talk about it,” Fisher said. “I’ve never tried to hide it. I had it and life goes on.”
While Fisher was lucky in catching the disease early through self-examination, she immediately followed up with medical treatment, including a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, and also encouraged her family members to do the same.
Fisher’s younger sister, Marian Hood, as well as Fisher’s oldest daughter, Donna Biggs, also found early-stage breast cancer through self-examination. However, Fisher’s sister Alice Wilson, lost her battle with the disease in January.
“Being aware has kept me alive for 20 years,” Fisher said. “Ever since I had my cancer, everyone in the family has been checking themselves. And my advice: open up, everybody; don’t try to hide it.”
While self-examination may catch a lump, Bayhealth Cancer Nurse Navigator Paula Hess, who will present the informational seminar “Breast Health Education” at the library on Oct. 24 at 6 p.m., said an annual mammogram is a must.
“Even if they’re doing a self-examination, they might not be able to find something that may be picked up on a mammogram,” Hess said. “You have to know your family history as well. We know now that there are some genetic components to breast cancer. [People] also have to know to look at the father’s family line as well as the mother’s.”
Page 2 of 2 - Once someone is diagnosed with breast cancer, it’s the support system found through organizations like the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and events like the Oct. 24 lecture at the library that can help those diagnosed find others to whom they can relate.
“It’s almost like a sisterhood,” Hess said. “Hopefully through their stories, they can educate people on how to get through it. It’s a great opportunity especially at the library, which has picked up the ball and spearheaded this educational effort.”
For more information on the display or the upcoming lecture, call Milford Public Library at 422-8996.