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VOL. 127 | NO. 30 | Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lucas Encourages Women to be Proactive

By Aisling Maki

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Geralyn Lucas, author of “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy,” was at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis Friday, Feb. 10, to share her personal story and encourage Mid-South women to be more proactive when it comes to their health.

“So much of why women avoid getting tests is because they’re scared,” Lucas said. “I just made a YouTube video called ‘Ouch,’ doing all the crazy things women do in New York. I got a Brazilian bikini wax, Botox, a tattoo, danced in high heels, and then I got a mammogram. That was so much less painful.”

Friday’s free event was held in the new 20,000-square-foot Dr. H. Edward Garrett Auditorium at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis, 6027 Walnut Grove Road.

Lucas said she was impressed with the way services are set up at the adjacent Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women.

“Mammograms are life saving,” Lucas said. “And it’s really phenomenal to have a world-class center like Baptist in your backyard – digital mammography, 10-day information results, having a boutique that has all the things you need when you’re going through treatment.

“That was really hard for me to find. Where I was treated in New York, everything was in different buildings and I had to search the city to find the right wig and the right prosthetic. It’s so overwhelming when you’re going through treatment to have that layer added on. I’m really excited to shine some light on the great center that’s here for women.”

Lucas, a former producer for “20/20” and current executive for Lifetime Television, was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 27.

Although she had no immediate family history, she did find out later that there were some instances of breast cancer in her family.

“Part of the reason I’m alive is because of my early diagnosis,” Lucas told The Daily News. “I did a breast exam and was diagnosed at stage one. And I would go on to have two children and really continue with my life. So my message is about early detection, and hopefully about making women laugh and taking the fear away.”

Lucas said she recognized there are numerous barriers to health care, especially

for low-income and uninsured and underinsured women.

“Women can get free mammograms; there are programs,” she said. “There are mobile mammogram units that go into the community. I also think women are typically taking their kids to the doctor and their husbands to get screened, but they come last on the list in every type of economic household.

“It’s hard to find time to take care of yourself when you’re taking care of kids. That’s why free events like this can help get the word out. If women don’t have health insurance, there are still ways to get a mammogram. Women have to show up for themselves and be their own best advocate. They need to come into the hospital and say, ‘I need a mammogram and I don’t have the resources.’”

Grant money is set aside for Baptist’s mobile mammogram, which will be at the Church Health Center Feb. 23.

While in Memphis, Lucas spoke Saturday, Feb. 11, at a “Think Pink” event for Zeta Tau Alpha Sorority to raise money for community education and awareness about breast health.

“I completely support their philanthropy; they’re educating younger women about breast cancer,” Lucas said. “I never knew about this when I was in college. I think it’s important that they’re starting with younger women.”

Lucas said she doesn’t want to be alarmist in her message, and that she was a statistical anomaly, but she wants younger women to get into the habit of self-exams.

“Unfortunately, there’s a very high incidence of women who are misdiagnosed after they present symptoms in their 20s, and tragically, most women in their 20s end up being stage four patients because they’re diagnosed way too late. It is rare, but it does happen.”

The free event was part of a yearlong speaker series celebrating Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.’s 100th anniversary.

The series kicked off in December with a fundraiser for Baptist’s new comprehensive cancer care center featuring legendary recording artist Patti LaBelle, who spoke candidly about her struggles with diabetes and her grief over losing three sisters to cancer. LaBelle, coincidentally, appeared in the 2006 Lifetime movie version of “Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.”

Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin is scheduled to speak in April about children and adults with special needs, and Baptist says numerous other special events will be announced throughout 2012.

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