Early detection saves lives. Early detection gives you options. Early detection puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to how you want to fight your breast cancer.
That’s what I’ve been saying for nearly two decades as the face of Buddy Check 9, WUSA-TV’s breast cancer awareness program. It began 19 years ago in partnership with the Prevent Cancer Foundation and Georgetown University Hospital.
Since the start, I’ve heard from scores of women and men who say after hearing my reminders on the 9th of each month, they do perform monthly breast self exams, get annual mammograms and schedule appointments for clinical exams. Some have even credited me with saving their lives.
Recently my colleague, local broadcast news icon JC Hayward, thanked me for being a faithful breast cancer advocate because the message hit home for her.
While on a cruise through South America, breast cancer interrupted JC’s time in paradise. Always in excellent health, she was proud that she wasn’t always one to run straight to a doctor’s office. And JC was only a “some-timer” when it came to early detection. Yet when she noticed something in her right breast, her gut reaction was that it wasn’t quite right. That nagging feeling did not go away when she came back to the U.S. Upon returning to work, she called me to her office and asked me what I thought. There was definitely something there, so I advised her to see an expert. She called breast surgeon Dr. Colette Magnant’s office. The following day JC was having a mammogram. That was Tuesday.
Wednesday she received the news no woman wants to hear. “You have breast cancer.”
Initially, she didn’t want to tell anyone—not me, not even her best “peeps,” as she calls her dearest friends. But she did tell me and I encouraged her to go public. That was Thursday.
Friday, I was with her live on-set as JC Hayward, anchorwoman, legend and “Buddy” looked directly into the camera and invited her family of viewers to join her on her breast cancer journey. She encouraged them to follow her lead and make early detection a regular part of their health care.
Immediately the word spread like wildfire on social media. Her JC Hayward.com website flooded with 100,000 hits. Sibley Hospital saw a jump in appointments for mammograms directly related to JC’s announcement, and I was getting calls for Buddy Check 9 reminder packets. In just a few hours she had become a powerful catalyst for change, especially among the city’s African-American women who have the highest mortality rate in the nation.
On Monday, I was with JC and her other “peeps” when she learned her cancer was invasive ductal carcinoma, a stage one or two, non-aggressive, estrogen receptor positive. An MRI that same day also detected a second lump. Radiologist Dr. Rebecca Zuurbier, Director of Breast Imagining at Sibley, located and removed the pea sized lesion during an Ultra Sound Guided Core Biopsy. The pathology report came back negative. It was benign.
Now JC had a decision to make–lumpectomy or mastectomy? Because her breast cancer was detected early, she did have a choice. She chose a lumpectomy.
One week after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, JC’s tumor was removed and the news was all good. Both the tumor and mass had clear margins—and no surprises. Early detection had made a critical difference. Early detection gave JC control over her breast cancer, not the other way around. My Buddy JC Hayward is saving lives, by example.
Watch Andrea’s interview with JC:
Andrea Roane is now in her 31st year with WUSA-TV 9. Ms. Roane is best known to viewers for her passionate reporting on breast health issues and promoting the importance of early detection in the fight against breast cancer through the Buddy Check 9 program. She currently serves as a Sustaining Director on the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s Board of Directors.