For Heather Dewey, the month of October serves as a reminder that she survived breast cancer.
Dewey, an intern at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, was 27 when she went to a clinic and was informed that she was too young for a breast cancer screening.
“They basically told me I was too young. That’s why I didn’t get it checked,” Dewey said. “The idea of having (a lump) was nagging me in the back of my head, so I started exercising again and eating a lot healthier.”
Dewey was diagnosed when she was 28.
“I found (a lump) a year earlier,” Dewey said.
Breast cancer will strike more than 200,000 times this year and claim more than 40,000 lives, according to the American Cancer Society.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Survivors and victims of the disease will spend the month helping students and communities become aware of the cancer.
“As far as the public, I think (the campaign) helps (people) keep (the disease) in mind and it reminds them of people who have breast cancer,” Dewey said.
Dewey added that breast cancer was not well known at the time she was diagnosed with it.
“Younger women tend to have faster growing cancers and more aggressive cancers,” Dewey said. “I was really lucky, I caught it just in time and it hadn’t spread.”
Dewey, now married with a baby due in February, said she takes better care of herself since her experience with the disease.
“Being diagnosed with breast cancer has changed my life,” Dewey said.
Dewey said she wants to write a book about breast cancer and what she went through after she was diagnosed with it.
“I appreciate life more after I have been diagnosed. I feel that life is short and that (people) should go after (their) dreams.” she said.
During the awareness campaign, now in its 18th year, Moffitt will try to help people like Dewey and others in the community to become more aware of breast cancer. Moffitt will be hosting a variety of events to educate the public about breast cancer and to provide support to those who have been diagnosed.
The first event on October 11th is a FACTors (Fighting Against Cancer Together) Fall Conference that celebrates everyday heroes .
“We also do other support and educational events for our patients, this is the only all-day educational conference within the program,” said Nancy Drourr, Breast Program Outreach and FACTors Coordinator.
Drourr said the event is open to anyone in the community with an interest in breast care. The event, which begins with registration at 8 a.m., will be the 16th annual Breast Cancer Education Fall Conference.
“Education, inspiration and support are the goals of the conference,” said Drourr.
Drourr said Dr. Charles Cox, the founder and mentor of FACTors support group and a USF professor, will be the keynote speaker at the conference this year.
In addition, Drourr said there will be two breakout and workshop sessions with different options and things to do and learn.
In the afternoon, there will be a question-and-answer session with the panel of four experts from Moffitt on breast cancer. This event will also include peer-networking opportunities.
“The conference will be attended by women with breast cancer (primarily),” Drourr said. “They will have an opportunity during the interactive workshops as well as (during) the designated exhibit times and lunch to meet other people.”
Lois Hike, like Dewey, is also a breast cancer survivor. Hike said it’s been 10 years since she was diagnosed.
Hike added that Breast Cancer Awareness Month is important not just for women, but for men as well.
“October is a month where people will be more aware of breast cancer and will most likely do something about it and also to make sure to get their family members tested,” Hike said. “This month many women will be informed that they will need to get mammograms, and also men will be more aware of how vital this procedure is to women’s health.”
Dewey said she feels that women who have not been diagnosed should also learn more about breast cancer and attend the informational sessions provided by Moffitt.
“I feel that it is important to learn as much as possible even without being diagnosed,” Dewey said.
An exhibit allowing visitors to learn more about breast cancer and will be open to the public Oct. 29 — 31 from 9 — 5 p.m. For further information and tickets, contact Melissa Pearson at (813) 632-1741.