A big Valentine: Get screened

Published 6:36 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018


Those filing into the Art Museum of Southeast Texas in Beaumont this week might’ve been lauded as “survivors” but they looked a far sight better than that.

They’d weathered their own brave battles with cancer and, many of them, fully emerged from the other side of private health hells, bore the look of champions. They greeted old friends, cheered speakers and program participants, clutched small gifts in their hands and looked not only grateful to be alive, but triumphant about their own fierce fights in staving off a dreaded health affliction.

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Valentine’s Day — well, the 13th, in anticipation— was their day to soak in the love of family, friends and community. The Celebration of Life and Love at the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” program bore a Valentine’s theme. And what’s not to love?

They remembered their valiant comrades — 25 people lost to cancer since last year were honored — but they relished the living, too. It was, a spokeswoman for the Gift of Life program, a day when survivors could “know what it means to be a survivor” and that, no matter what, “your community loves you.”

The Gift of Life Cancer program, which lends medical and educational services in seven Southeast Texas counties, had successes to tout: 2017 stats showed the program provided:

  • Educational outreach to 21,000 people
  • Breast cancer screenings to 2,026 women
  • Prostate cancer screenings to 467 men
  • Primary care screenings to 1,300.

Results: 17 women were diagnosed with breast cancer; three men with prostate cancer. Those diagnoses gave them a chance to wage their health battles.

Judith Smith of Port Arthur knows the score both as a patient and a healthcare provider. A nurse since her 1979 graduation from Lamar, she’s the director of Port Arthur’s health department.

No one, she said, not even a professional like herself, is ready to hear the word: “Cancer.” Not when it comes to one’s own health.

She celebrated with the others Tuesday, even as she recollected her own diagnosis, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery. In the wake of her great challenge, she said, she’s come to embrace life to the fullest.

“This event is massive for me,” she said.

Consider this: The American Cancer Society suggests Texas will see 121,860 new cancer cases this year, our bitter portion of the 729,000 new cases expected nationally.

A few cancers can be prevented but all cancers are more likely to be successfully addressed with screening. The American Cancer Society says more awareness — awareness is increased by health education — helps recognizes cancer’s early signals.

The greatest Valentine we can give family and friends is attention to our health. The Gift of Life screening and education programs help Southeast Texans do that.

Get involved. Be proactive. Learn more at giftoflifebmt.org.