Bath mayor says cancer's no joke

March 15, 2005|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Her hair is growing back, but it still doesn't cooperate on one side. "It tends to stick out," she said, but that's not an issue for Bath Mayor Susan Webster, who wants people to pick up the phone and make an appointment for a cancer screening.

At Webster's request, the Bath Town Council passed a proclamation last month declaring April 1, 2005, as Make Your Mammogram Appointment Day.

Webster, who was diagnosed with breast cancer on April 1 last year, sent copies of the Bath proclamation and letters to West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, the mayors of all the Eastern Panhandle communities and county commission presidents, asking them to "encourage responsible health practices that include mammography" for its residents.


Webster said she wants to "make use of April 1 in a smart way and not as a silly joke day because cancer is no joke." She said she wanted to celebrate the day because it was the "luckiest day" for her.

Last April, Webster had a malignant tumor removed from her left breast. A lumpectomy was performed. Two weeks later, she found a lump in her right breast. A biopsy proved this was a cancerous growth, too, and a second lumpectomy was performed in late May.

The second tumor was larger than the first and the cancer cells had invaded the tissue outside the milk ducts. Chemotherapy was required, she said, followed by radiation therapy.

"I found out and was able to begin aggressive treatment. Had I not found out, it could have been much worse," she said.

Webster said "it would be nice if April 1 could be set aside as a responsible health day. Men need to be responsible for their health care, too."

Martinsburg (W.Va.) Mayor George Karos told her that Martinsburg already has a cancer screening day.

She said she wants to encourage all Morgan County residents to consider April 1 as a responsible health day and for women to make the mammogram appointment.

Angel Bloom, a registered nurse with the Morgan County Health Department, agreed. "The most important thing to do is to make the mammogram appointment now. Don't wait another day," Bloom said.

Bloom said the health department offers free and low-cost breast examinations for uninsured or underinsured women. If further testing or treatment is needed, the West Virginia Breast & Cervical Cancer Diagnostic & Treatment Fund is available for women who do not have health insurance and may not be able to afford services.

Webster said that since she has been given the gift of leadership as mayor, "it is incumbent on me to let others know the importance of scheduling a mammogram on or before April 1."

Webster said having cancer changed her life. "I thank God daily for the lessons I've learned by being a survivor. It has strengthened my faith. I take no days for granted now and believe that our greatest mission is to look out for each other.

"I've always felt if you live in a community, you owe the community - you owe from your heart to help others," she said.

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