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Fighting Breast Cancer One Life at a Time

If you know, you know. For those who have been impacted by breast cancer, their families and friends, coworkers, and community members, there is no mystery as to the pain that it can cause both physically and emotionally. It has affected countless lives here in our community and beyond.

According to the CDC, breast cancer is the second most common cancer among women in the United States. Each year in the United States, about 240,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,100 in men. About 42,000 women and 500 men in the U.S. die each year from breast cancer. It is a merciless enemy, and any effort to combat it is no easy feat.

Local nonprofit organization, Beyond Pink, works tirelessly to educate and serve anyone in our community who could be at-risk for breast cancer. Charlie Brewer and Karla Watkins founded the organization that has collectively raised over $1.7 million dollars since its inception to provide the technology of Thermography and its powerful ability to aid in the early detection of breast disease.

The technology has been around and FDA-approved since 1982. It can detect breast disease at its earliest stages, prior to the formation of a mass, and can help individuals take preventative action as well as make lifestyle changes that can save their lives. The funds stay local and 100% of net proceeds are used to provide grants to community members so that regardless of income level, anyone can protect their health, and their lives. It is recommended to start around age 20 so that you have the best data to track your health, and because we are seeing people get breast cancer younger and younger. Yes, this includes men!

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The most shocking information we discovered about this technology? Insurance generally doesn’t cover this life saving screening. Beyond Pink’s commitment to people of every background and income level is a personal mission, and that’s where their fundraising efforts come in, and where you can get involved!

Their upcoming fundraiser, the 14th Annual Beyond Pink Fashion Show and Auction at the Davenport Grand Hotel is on September 23 at 5:30 PM, and sells out quickly due to its popularity. Their tagline is, “It’s the most fun you’ll have saving a life!” This is their biggest fundraiser and a fantastic way to support breast health in our community. Get your tickets here before they sell out.

The fashion show was the brainchild of the organization’s founders, and while it started as just a runway event with bras, now it has evolved into true fashion showpieces by designers being presented with exciting live auction packages that you can bid on and support this fantastic cause.

It’s not your typical fundraiser – it’s a high-energy fantastic time that is truly a celebration of community and resilience. The production is set to music and meticulously planned to have the crowd dancing in their seats. The silent auction will open five days prior, and you’ll be able to scope out the items you’re most excited about. All of the designs are kept very secret until the event to build even more anticipation. If you aren’t able to attend in person, they stream the event as well so that you can still enjoy and support the organization. 

Listen in on our recent interview with Jessica Southwick, their Executive Director, on the Trending Northwest Podcast.

If you are interested in getting a community grant for a Thermography scan, the process is really easy. The grant application takes just minutes, and you can get an appointment made quickly.

Filling out the grant application

The grant application process is easy and straightforward – other than filing out information about yourself, you are asked if you can pay for any part of your grant, which you can do either at the appointment or later online. You don’t pay anything upfront!

Once you fill out the grant, you’re contacted by email about scheduling your thermogram appointment. Someone also texted me to set up my appointment, which I saw before I saw the email, so I could bypass email back and forth by scheduling my appointment via text. 

Before the appointment, you’ll be provided a few things to sign and read – all very standard health procedure paperwork. You’re also given a plethora of information about how to take care of yourself and prevent any kind of health risks, not simply cancer. As I read through the paperwork, I realized I do many of these things already (getting enough sleep, trying to eat healthy, etc.) and some I could do better on, like not stressing out so much!

You can read that paperwork and commit it to memory if you want, but if you don’t have time, don’t worry – no one will quiz you on it!

Editor-in-Chief Melissa Berry’s Experience:

After your body gets acclimated to the room temperature, Wendy Ramsey, CTT, (in my case, but there’s another person who also does the scans) comes back and explains the process to you in-depth. It’s calming to hear exactly how everything is going to go, as I’m the type of person who likes to be over prepared and know exactly what is happening at all times. You may find it repetitive depending on how much notice you want, but it’s important to the procedure as you must hold still; otherwise, they’ll have to redo the scans. Overall, the process is very easy – the only hard part for me is holding still for a few seconds, but it’s a great exercise in patience!

Once you’re done with the scan, you get on the home care bed for the most thorough breast exam of your life! Don’t just take my word for it – I’ve spoken to several people who’ve gone through the thermogram and exam process, and all of them say it’s truly the most comprehensive exam ever. It’s actually a very reassuring process – I’m not a doctor, but I always wondered if some exams were thorough enough. 

Wendy was wonderful at going over what she was doing, explaining how certain parts around the breast tend to be overlooked but are crucial to exam, like near your underarms and under the breasts. Again, as someone who likes to be over prepared, I found it helpful to know what was happening and what this exam could reveal. I left feeling like if there was anything amiss, this thorough screening would be a good start to identifying it.

Overall, the scan and exam process took around ~30 minutes, and roughly 10 minutes of it are spent in meditation while your body adjusts to the cooler room temperature. 

After the scan

After your scan, you’re given a list of follow-up providers’ offices that have people who have been trained to read the thermogram results. If any of these follow-up providers are your provider, great! If not, it’s okay – I chose a follow-up provider close to me to schedule my appointment with, even if they weren’t “my” provider.

Beyond Pink gives you a script about being a Beyond Pink grant recipient, which can help get you in sooner vs. going in as a new patient. Beyond Pink also advises waiting at least two weeks to get your appointment, as it can take that long for the doctor to receive and analyze the thermogram.

I scheduled my appointment for three weeks after my scan, just to be sure, and overall the check-in process was smooth! At first, the follow-up provider’s office did think I was a new patient, but it turned out there was another woman named Melissa there at the same time for a new patient appointment, so once we got that straightened out, I was led back for discussion about my scan. 

Discussing my scan results was unlike any other doctor appointment I’ve ever had – the ARNP went over my Thermal Breast Imaging Report, including my thermal (TH) risk rating and hormonal grade for estrogen activity. I learned some important things about inflammation in my body and some things I should be aware of.

Throughout this process, it is stressed that thermography can’t diagnose or rule out the possibility of breast disease or cancer, and thermography does not delay or replace additional evaluation, screening or monitoring. I was counseled to take these findings to my doctor and continue my preventative screenings, and luckily, I have another screening coming up soon with my doctor.

Overall, I appreciated the thorough process, and while I understand thermography cannot diagnose breast disease or cancer, I think it’s an important tool. Before this process, I thought I didn’t have to worry about breast disease or cancer, mistakenly believing most breast cancer was hereditary. 

During this process, I learned that only 5-10% of breast cancer is hereditary, so I shouldn’t assume “it won’t happen to me” because it hasn’t happened to anyone related to me. I realize that’s incredibly naive to think, but it opened my eyes – I thought I was doing all the right things, while I was ignoring this pretty big thing!

Thanks to Beyond Pink, I’m much more cognizant of the steps I need to take to stay on top of my body’s health, beyond eating right, sleeping, and getting enough exercise. There’s so much more happening internally, and by getting screened regularly, I’ll have the knowledge to take action if needed.

Erin Peterson, Editor-In-Chief

Erin Peterson grew up in Post Falls, Idaho and became a professionally certified educator – earning the Provost’s Award for academic achievement and community service from Lewis-Clark State College. Now she is an award-winning local influencer, podcaster and digital strategy educator with a passion for equity and inclusion. Erin has been published and featured in a wide variety of local publications including the Spokesman Review, The Inlander, and has served as an editor at Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine. If you want to learn more about how she is making an impact right here in the Northwest, give her a follow on Instagram at @trending.northwest or Trending Northwest on Facebook.

Read all of Erin’s articles on TNW here.

Melissa Berry, Director of Web Content

Melissa has lived in the Pacific Northwest for eight years, primarily in Spokane, Washington. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Melissa also lived in Denver, Colorado for two years. A freelance travel writer and podcaster, Melissa co-hosts the popular and award-winning podcast, Trending Northwest. Melissa has been featured in Redfin, Spokane Coeur d’Alene Living magazine, Spokane Talks, and the Inlander. A proud Gonzaga graduate, she always gets her hopes up come NCAA tournament time. You can follow her on Instagram at trendingspokane.

read all of melissa’s articles here.

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