Ten years ago this month, Joni Essman walked into the mobile mammography unit outside the hospital in Waldron for her yearly mammogram. It was just another routine visit until a few days later when she got a letter saying she had an abnormal lump. The diagnosis was stage 2 to 3 breast cancer and it started a whirlwind of treatment that led to a lumpectomy, eight chemotherapy sessions and 33 radiation treatments.
“Thank God for that mammography van”, says Essman today, “I work full-time, you get busy and it just seems so hard to take half a day to go to Fort Smith for the screening. I was lucky I could just walk across the parking lot. I’m living proof that it pays to have it here and be convenient.”
Each year an average of 1,600 women are screened in Mercy’s mobile mammography unit as it travels through 7 counties in Arkansas providing quick, convenient mammograms for patients who might otherwise have to travel quite a distance for the screening. The mammography van also has the “To Save a Life” program that offers free or reduced cost mammograms to women who are uninsured and meet certain income criteria that could not otherwise afford the screening.
“We want to make it as easy and affordable as possible for women to get their yearly mammograms”, says Michelle Bonds, Manager of Mammography at St. Edward Mercy, “We know that early detection saves lives and offering this service can help women catch breast cancer in its earliest stages when it’s most treatable.”
The current van is twelve years old with thousands of miles on it. It has become unreliable and needs to be replaced. So does the x-ray unit on the van that complements the digital mammography technology. The cost of outfitting a new van to be a mobile mammography unit is about $270,000. With $200,000 already raised, the St. Edward Mercy Auxiliary is now working to raise the remaining $70,000 through their annual holiday dinner dance fundraiser.
“We are thrilled to be able to help raise money for a service that touches so many women each year. We hope to get the new van on the road as soon as possible so it can keep saving lives as it has for the last 22 years.” says Jill Barrie, Auxiliary Dinner Dance chair.
This year’s event is called “Shimmering Ice” and is set for 6pm on Friday, December 3rd at the Phoenix Expo Center in Fort Smith. Tickets and sponsorships are available by calling 479.314.2550.