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Not just a pink show: Breast Cancer Awareness leads to real results

LAPLACE — Joan LeBouef, public relations director for local nonprofit Perry’s Posse, has heard criticism that Breast Cancer Awareness Month places too much emphasis on frilly pink ribbons and not enough on the scars the disease leaves behind.

As an eight-year survivor herself, LeBouef knows no cancer is pretty, but she sees October awareness efforts as an effective step to saving lives.

“If it takes ‘pretty’ and all these extra little activities to bring out awareness, then I’m all for that because I would not be here otherwise,” LeBouef said.

Each year, she sees progress in a rising amount of local cancer patients seeking treatment early. Breast cancer awareness taught LeBouef to know her own body and become an advocate herself when she felt something was wrong, even after a mammogram found no evidence of a tumor.

When she was diagnosed, LeBouef feared the breast cancer would be her death sentence, just as it was for her grandmother.

“Breast cancer survival has increased so much in just the last eight years since I was doing chemo,” LeBouef said. “Cancer research has really been improved, especially with breast cancer and early detection. Putting the pink out there brings out stories from women like me to reach the community, and that can save a woman’s life.”

St. James Parish Hospital was illuminated in pink each night this month as a reminder to women to remain proactive in their health care.

Heath Taylor helps spread awareness at a recent St. Charles Catholic football game.

According to Kassie Roussel, director of marketing, St. James Parish Hospital took a different approach to Breast Cancer Awareness Month this year by organizing events that required active participation, not just a listening ear.

The result was greater attendance from younger women in the community, Roussel said.

“Last year, we had several physicians come talk to people about what you need to do to stay healthy,” Roussel said. “This year, we actually planned events giving people an easy opportunity to actually do what the doctors suggest.”

Roussel said breast cancer is only one aspect of the umbrella of women’s health, making it important to market all women’s services. Many wellness practices, including physical activity, are cancer preventive, she said.

St. James Parish Hospital employees hand out fans.

This month, participants walked together through Lutcher Park during “Walk and Talk” wellness events.

Women took advantage of free screenings, participated in a cost-free fitness class and enjoyed healthy snacks.

An OBGYN, oncologist and clinical psychologist spoke on the importance of stress management and taking care of oneself, especially for women in caregiver positions charged with looking out for others.

At several River Parishes football games, ladies received handouts with women’s wellness contacts, and cancer survivors were recognized during halftime.

“It went over very, very, well, and I think we reached our goal,” Roussel said. “We are seeing younger ladies attending these events and different people at every single one, as compared to last year.”

Though mammogram scheduling is dependent on insurance companies, Patient Care Coordinator Laura Gros of Thibodaux Regional Medical Center said Breast Cancer Awareness month promotes information access.

“We see more inquiries about screening and mammograms in October,” Gros said. “Our mammogram numbers continue to rise, and we’re seeing people take advantage of screenings.”

According to Gros, this month has seen increased requests for information and participation from social groups and faith-based organizations. The medical team visited a dozen churches in October to speak on awareness and celebrated a pink game at Nicholls State University.

TRMC placed a focus on health and wellness with cooking and yoga demonstrations, volleyball, football and a ladies’ fishing rodeo.

To support cancer awareness after October, visit the Perry’s Posse garage sale fundraiser Friday through Sunday at 127 GYO Road in Garyville.

Proceeds provide resources for active cancer patients in the River Parishes.