STEUBENVILLE - It was a coincidence that 27-year breast cancer survivor Jean Frio and her husband, Domenic, stopped at the Fort Steuben Mall to shop Wednesday and discovered instead the 17th-annual Ohio Mammography Day wreath ceremony about to begin.
The two stayed for the noon observance spearheaded by the Women in Action Against Cancer Coalition of Jefferson County, an occasion for music, proclamations, resource information, statistics, a survivor's story, pink roses for survivors and the challenge to promise to promote early detection through self-examinations and mammograms.
With her pink rose in hand, Frio was applauded for the most years of survivorship to her credit.
KEYNOTE SPEAKER — Marcia Dreyer of Wintersville, right, shared her survivor’s story as part of Wednesday’s 17th-annual Ohio Mammography Day wreath ceremony held at the Fort Steuben Mall and sponsored by the Women in Action Against Cancer Coalition of Jefferson County. Judy Manfred, left, WIAACC president, prepared to present Dreyer with a pink rose, with one given to all survivors in attendance. - Janice Kiaski
"I feel like I'm a pioneer," Frio said after the ceremony. The Follansbee woman was 47 when diagnosed with breast cancer, not because of a mammogram, she said, but because of her husband's powers of observation when he noticed a liquid discharge on her nightgown. That led to a biopsy, the discovery that "my nipple was loaded with cancer," a mastectomy of her left breast, six months of chemotherapy and 35 radiation treatments.
She credited God and her faith with her mental survival and noted her cancer journey didn't include the services of anything like the WIAACC, the local nonprofit organization that provides free breast and cervical exams, mammograms and other services throughout Jefferson County.
Judy Manfred, its president, welcomed those attending Wednesday's event and expressed gratitude for the "overwhelming support" WIAACC has received. In 2012, it raised $24,000, with $22,000 of it providing free services to more than 200 women. The rest went for expenses such as billboards, advertising and postage.
"Today is about survivors," Manfred said, noting representatives of WIAACC are available to speak to groups and organizations.
It also, however, included a promise in the form of a pink piece of paper with a pink key attached to it. Distributed to all in attendance, the promise was a pledge "to openly discuss with the women in my life young and old this month and always the importance of women's health. I vow to honor survivors and use this key to remind me that I can create new survivors. Early detection is the key, and I can be the key to helping others."
Marcia Dreyer of Wintersville took the lead on that approach in her survivor story, a tale blending equal parts of humor and honesty.
An 18-year breast cancer survivor, Dreyer was faithful to self-exams and mammograms. She was diagnosed with "an aggressive, fast-moving breast cancer" in March 1995 when she was 41. In less than a year of having had her annual mammogram, Dreyer said she had a tumor the size of a quarter in her left breast. She underwent a mastectomy on April 28, 1995. Seven months later she had her right breast removed, a preventive or risk-reducing mastectomy as a precaution.
"I figured I had two choices - wallow in self pity or get up and fight. I fought," said Dreyer, who preaches early detection, which she said saved her life. She joked that "mammograms don't hurt that much. If I hear one more woman say a mammogram hurts, I'm going to hit her thumb with a hammer. Now that hurts."
Dreyer said she thinks women should have mammograms at a younger age than advocated, that 25 might be the age at least for a base one.
Her take-control message included finding a doctor who listens and cares. "You need a doctor to be a friend," she said.
After receiving her pink rose from Manfred, Dreyer presented the other survivors on hand with a pink rose in a show of survivorship celebration.
The ceremony included Shirley Prosko offering the opening prayer; Thomas Graham, Jefferson County commissioner, leading the group in the national anthem and also offering an Ohio Mammography Day proclamation on behalf of the commissioners; and 6th Ward Councilman David Lalich following suit with a resolution from Steubenville Council.
Musical selections were provided by the Edison High School Chorale under the direction of Dani Carroll, director.
An overview of WIAACC was given by breast cancer survivor and coalition member Mary McElhaney, who said it helps women take charge of their health, navigate an increasingly more complex health care system, find support and get the help they need.
It meets at noon on the first Wednesday of the month at Manfred's on Sunset Boulevard. It has 49-plus members and is open to anyone.
For information about WIAACC, contact Manfred at (740) 264-7210. For information about services, call (740) 282-5676.