Ever wonder how your donation dollars help? Where does the money go and who does it directly help? Komen Columbus has a proud tradition of partnering with many organizations to help men and women who are underserved and uninsured in our 30-county service area. This year alone, we granted nearly $2 million to support 34 programs in Central and Southeastern Ohio communities. This milestone moment would not be possible without the generosity of our sponsors, Race participants and all those people who give to Komen Columbus. For the next few weeks, we will feature our grantees so you can see and read how your dollars are making an impact.
Guest Writer: Rebecca Hudson
Two retired nurses decided it was their calling to create a one-of-a-kind program for women in their poverty-ridden county with nowhere else to go for breast cancer information and free mammograms.
Norma Torres, program director, and Carolyn Grueser, administrative project assistant, both breast cancer survivors, founded Meigs County Think Pink Cancer Initiative in 2006 thanks to a grant from Komen Columbus. Komen has funded the program every year since.
Think Pink partners with the Meigs County Cancer Initiative and is part of the Appalachia Community Cancer Network. The three community-based organizations focus on raising awareness in order to increase prevention and early detection of cancer for long-term survival.
“Think Pink’s grassroots efforts help residents become more aware of when and where to seek breast cancer screenings and how to navigate through the complex health care system,” Norma explained. “We focus on the uninsured or underinsured women who are not eligible for other county services.”
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, of Meigs County’s 23,600 residents, 21 percent live below the poverty level, compared with 14 percent in the rest of Ohio.
“Think Pink is the only established program in Meigs County that offers breast care education, no-cost mammograms and transportation assistance to medically underserved women starting at age 35.”
Norma further explained that the program is unique in providing free services for women who have deductibles that they can’t afford.
Approximately 40 percent of the women served by Think Pink between the age of 35 and 65 have no insurance. In addition, many programs that offer some financial support for mammograms are not accepting new patients.
“Think Pink allows us to provide safety-net services to women shut out of other programs,” Norma said, adding, “And, we are the only program to begin with a baseline screening at 35 years of age.”
The results these two retired nurses have accomplished since the program started in 2006 are impressive, including:
• 645 free mammograms,
• 116 diagnostic follow ups,
• Referrals for 418 women to other programs for mammograms,
• 1,650 educational presentations that teach women how to do self-examinations,
• 250 clinical breast exams,
• 3,259 breast health educational materials,
• 900 gas vouchers, and
• coordination of 19 community-based Women Health Days.
“Komen Columbus received a letter from a woman in Meigs County who had lost her health insurance after the company she was working for downsized. The woman had no intention of getting a mammogram due to the cost,” said Norma.
Alerted by Komen, Norma spoke to the woman at a community event, convincing her to use their services. She received her Komen-funded mammogram, followed by a diagnostic mammogram and ultra sound after the results indicted a potential concern for cancer. Testing revealed she did indeed have breast cancer and she was then able to receive comprehensive follow-up care.
“As a result, she is alive today to see her only child graduate from college in June 2013.”
For Norma, the reason she devotes her life to providing breast health services for others could not be more personal.
Toward the end of 1970, Norma’s gynecologist sent her for a mammogram after a breast examination during a routine office visit indicated a suspicious mass.
“When the diagnosis was made I was numb. I didn’t even want to have surgery.”
Convinced of the importance of follow-up surgery, she learned the cancer was caught early – a credit to the mammogram.
“I am the living example of the benefits of catching cancer early,” Norma proudly reports, “which is why I tell every woman I meet that there is never a good reason not to have a mammogram.”
To learn more about the Meigs County Think Pink program, contact Norma at (740) 992-6552 or (740) 992-5469. For a complete list of all our Komen Columbus grantees and the services and programs they provide, click here. Read about other Komen Columbus Community Health Grantees here.