Komen St. Louis Community Partner: Family Care Health Centers’ Breast Health Screening Access Project

Community Partner

At Family Care Health Centers, the Breast Health Screening Access Project works to ensure that all patients get the breast health care they need.

With the help of two mammography vans provided through Barnes-Jewish Hospital, women are educated on their own breast cancer risk and have the opportunity to get a mammogram. The vans make visits to both Family Care Health Center locations once a month.

The program also offers patient navigation services for patients ages 40-64. Although navigation is available to all patients who meet the age requirement, over half of the women who benefit from the navigation services are uninsured. The other half are mostly low income; about 25 percent of them are on Medicaid, and the other 25 percent have insurance.

This is the 5th year of Komen St. Louis funding for this program.

Chereese Agard, RN and Breast Health Navigator, explains the importance of these services, especially for those patients whose lack of insurance presents a barrier to treatment. “Our project connects women with resources,” she says. “It is a great help to those who don’t have access to them or don’t know where to go for treatment.”

For a recipient of patient navigation services, the first step is an appointment with a mammography van.

Once that first appointment is scheduled, the navigator also follows up and provides additional services if necessary.

“The navigator will schedule follow-up appointments or appointments with a breast surgeon if needed,” says Chereese.

Last year, the Breast Health Screening Access Project, through Komen St. Louis funding, was able to provide patient navigation services to more than 1,000 women, allowing them to access the treatment they needed.

In 2013, Komen St. Louis granted $2.2 million to 13 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including Family Care Health Centers’ Breast Health Screening Access Project. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

What Komen St. Louis Taught Me

Guest Writer: Jessica Zadoks, Komen St. Louis PR & Marketing Intern

When I started my internship at Komen St. Louis in May, I was hoping to learn a little bit about what it’s like to work for a nonprofit, and how this organization does everything that it does.

As a member of Zeta Tau Alpha at Vanderbilt University, I’ve supported Susan G. Komen as part of our sorority’s philanthropy. I knew that Komen was doing great things, but I had no idea what a large impact this organization has in St. Louis.

Jessica Zadoks, Komen St. Louis' Summer 2013 PR & Marketing Intern

Jessica Zadoks, Komen St. Louis’ Summer 2013 PR & Marketing Intern

So before beginning my internship here, I knew what Susan G. Komen was. I had seen commercials on KSDK for the Race for the Cure. I had seen people with pink ribbon stickers on their cars and pink strips dyed in their hair for breast cancer awareness. But I realized that I really didn’t know exactly what this organization did to fight breast cancer. I was actually kind of shocked to learn how many people are helped by programs and resources that are funded by Komen St. Louis.

And working at the Komen office, I learned just how vital these resources are. When women called needing free mammograms because they were uninsured, or needing assistance during breast cancer treatment, I was able to direct them to the right place.

Also, I learned quickly that it takes a lot of committed people – from volunteers to committee members to board members to everyone who works in the Komen office – to make the large impact that Susan G. Komen has made in the St. Louis area.

Everyone I have met is so dedicated and caring, and I can tell that they genuinely enjoy supporting a cause that is so important and personal to so many.

I was also surprised by how much work really goes into every event, and how much time and talent it takes to make these events a success. I really liked going to the “Show Me St. Louis” window in the weeks leading up to the Race to promote Race registration.

Growing up in the St. Louis area, I had many friends and neighbors that participated in the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure, but I had never attended myself. This year, I loved being downtown and hearing the inspiring stories of breast cancer survivors. It touched my heart to see how much participating in the event means to them, and how it brings the whole community together. My favorite part of the day was standing at the end of the race course, seeing the survivors and their loved ones’ excitement and pride as they crossed the finish line.

Working here, I have had the opportunity to meet so many great people and learn so much. I’d like to thank everyone for welcoming me as part of the Komen St. Louis team. It has been a wonderful experience and I have learned a lot about a great organization.

While soon I’ll be headed back to school, I definitely won’t forget everything that working here this summer has taught me. I look forward to participating in the Race for the Cure this fall in Nashville, and I will definitely be back next June to race again in St. Louis!

Komen St. Louis Community Partner: East Missouri Action Agency’s Rural Missouri Outreach Program

Community Partner

The East Missouri Action Agency has offered the Rural Missouri Outreach Program through funding from Komen St. Louis for four years. The program serves women in Jefferson, Madison, Perry, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve and Washington counties in Missouri.

Last year, the funding helped to provide nearly 300 mammograms to women who are uninsured or underinsured. Without this program, women in rural Missouri may not have access to the care that is vital for the early detection of breast cancer – care that can ultimately save lives.

Komen St. Louis funding is essential in making sure these women get the care they need and deserve. “We would never have been able to provide ultrasound and diagnostic services otherwise,” says Program Director Angel Prather. “This funding really helps out a lot.”

While the process of receiving a mammogram or other diagnostic services is not an altogether pleasant one, Angel and her team work to help women feel special in the midst of what can be an uncomfortable circumstance.

“When we give mammograms every month, we treat the patients like queens for the day,” Angel says. “We work with Missouri Baptist Medical Center to provide the mammograms through their mammogram van, and we give out door prizes and serve food and drinks to the women.”

Above all, Angel says that providing women with the care they need has always been the Rural Missouri Outreach Program’s main priority.

“I’ve been a director for about 25 years,” she says, “and helping women is just what we do.”

In 2013, Komen St. Louis granted $2.2 million to 13 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including East Missouri Action Agency’s Rural Missouri Outreach Program. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

A Survivor’s Story: Valeda Keys

Guest Writer: Valeda Keys, Breast Cancer Survivor

Everyone has a story to tell. No matter who you are, your life is worth talking about.

In 2007, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time, 20 years after her first diagnosis. It was then that I had a vivid dream that I would have to go through this challenge as well.

I was advised to get mammograms starting at age 27 due to my family history of breast cancer. I have never missed a year getting my mammogram. On April 26, 2010, at 5:26 pm, I received a phone call and was told: “Mrs. Keys, you have Ductal Carcinoma in Situ.” I knew that meant CANCER. I was 37 years young at the time of diagnosis. With constant prayer, I knew I would get over this.

Valeda Keys (left) with her twin sister Vanessa Robinson

Valeda Keys (left) with her twin sister Vanessa Robinson

On May 13, 2010, a lumpectomy was performed on my left breast with some lymph nodes removed. After the lumpectomy, results from the genetic test I had taken revealed that I carried the BRCA-2 gene mutation. My identical twin sister also was tested and had the same result. During June and July 2010, I underwent radiation every weekday and began taking Tamoxifen.

On August 11, 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. This time the cancer had developed independently in my right breast. I was now 39 years young. My medical oncologist suggested I have a double mastectomy. I felt like my breasts were trying to kill me. I felt like I had no choice. I wanted my breasts, but I couldn’t have them.

On September 12, 2011, I had the double mastectomy. Part of the healing process included physical therapy and emotional therapy. Telling my story is healing.

During this time of recovery, I was ready to start giving back. It was put on my heart to have a breast cancer awareness conference entitled, “My Strength Is Your Strength.” This name came from everything I’ve been through and for women who may have to take this same journey.

The November 2012 conference was a great success. A second conference is planned for November 2, 2013. Susan G. Komen St. Louis has provided me with lots of materials to bring awareness to our community, family, friends and even strangers. I will continue to follow my passion, which is breast cancer awareness and sharing the story of my breast cancer journey with others.

As I continue to deal with the aftermath of breast cancer, I ran my first 5K at the 2013 Susan G. Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure. I remain hopeful in every area of my life.

Native St. Louisan Valeda Keys is a Licensed Practical Nurse and a two-time breast cancer survivor. She and her identical twin sister, Vanessa Robinson, trained for 10 weeks to run the 2012 Komen St. Louis Race 5K. Valeda was named the 2013 Honorary Team New Balance Member for the 15th Annual Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure®.