The 75th Medical Group, 75th Force Support Squadron Health and Wellness Center and 75th Air Base Wing Airman and Family Readiness Center hosted a luncheon to observe October as Breast Cancer Awareness month Oct. 20 at Club Hill.
75th ABW Vice Commander Col. Calvin Williams led the educational luncheon with opening remarks about his personal battle with pancreatic cancer in 2003. Though he did not know about his condition until the tumor progressed into the stage-four category and had spread to his liver, Williams was still able to defeat the cancer and live to impart his advice to others.
"Early detection is key," Williams advised.
This advice was echoed by Maj. Linda Hagemann, of the 75th MDG, who reported that although the rate of breast cancer diagnosis has been steadily increasing by 1 percent each year since the '40s, the number of deaths related to breast cancer has declined due to increased utilization of mammograms and other screening devices which allow doctors to detect cancerous cells before the disease can progress into fatal stages.
Keynote speaker Amanda Gammon, a licensed genetics counselor with the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, reviewed genetics testing as another screening method for cancer. Research has proven there are certain genetic codes that are passed down family lines which make those with the coding susceptible to gene mutations and place the person "one step closer to cancer," Gammon said.
Both men and women can possess these genetic codes, such as the breast cancer susceptibility gene one or two, or BRCA 1 or 2, and their children have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene, Gammon reported. If inherited, women with BRCA 1 or 2 have a 50-85 percent risk of getting breast cancer in their lifetime, compared to an estimated 12 percent lifetime risk of the general population without inherited genetic mutations.
Gammon said that genetics counseling and screening are offered at the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the Intermountain Healthcare hospitals within Utah. Other resources include online risk calculators, such as the surgeon general's Web site, https://familyhistory.hhs.gov, and informational Web sites, such as the National Society of Genetic Counselors' Web site, www.nsgc.org.
The luncheon's guest speaker, Linda Hill, gave her personal account of battling multiple forms of cancer primarily due to an inherited genetic mutation. Hill has battled lymphoma, thyroid and breast cancers since age 19 and has had her spleen, thyroid, colon and both breasts removed as a result. She said that humor and maintaining the right perspective helped her pull through her battles and, ultimately, led her to start her own company, So Much More.
The company produces T-shirts designed for cancer survivors that reflect Hill's winning attitude and sense of humor. T-shirts display one-liners such as "I lost both breasts but men look me in the eyes now," and "Blue eyes runs in your family? Cancer runs in mine." Proceeds of the company's sales are donated to further cancer research.
As a single mother of seven children and "living paycheck to paycheck like everyone else," Hill said this was her way of giving back to cancer research that has saved her life multiple times. However, she said that it wasn't until she battled her third cancer that she realized she had to start working on her dreams to provide positive memories of herself for her children.
"Whether I have three months or three years (to live), I'd much rather spend them laughing and having a good time," Hill said.
It is this attitude that permeates every facet of her company, including the selection of the company's name, So Much More.
"When we think of people we love, we talk of their sense of humor, their kindness, their talents, and countless other qualities," Hill explained. "Never do we describe someone as whether they have their breasts or not."
For more information about So Much More and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, visit www.somuchmoreonline.com.