POINT PLEASANT — “You have to find cancer, before it finds you.”
These were wise words relayed to breast cancer survivor Lana Riffle, from a former patient. Riffle, who is a nurse, spoke at an annual ceremony hosted each year by area Community Educational Outreach Service (CEOS) Clubs, the WVU Extension office and the Mason County Health Department, at the Mason County Library.
Riffle spoke to those gathered about her own journey as a breast cancer survivor. Diagnosed in 2009, she said even though she was a nurse, she put off getting a mammogram, attributing that delay to a busy life and she didn’t have any risk factors. However, when she felt a cyst in her breast, she became “terrified” and one night when working the midnight shift at a hospital, she recalled that patient telling her to “find cancer before it finds you.” Though the patient was talking about a situation with her own daughter, Riffle said she herself was meant to hear it. She got it checked out and at 48 years old, she became a cancer patient.
Now seven years cancer free, she told those gathered at the annual event on Monday, she wasn’t there to talk about what cancer took from her but what it gave her. While holding her granddaughter, she talked about appreciating all the little things in life, like birthdays and holidays. She said she takes nothing for granted.
“Don’t miss out on any of those special moments I’ve been talking about,” Riffle told those gathered. “Take care of yourselves.”
Riffle’s speech echoed that of Dr. Robin Tolbert with Holzer Point Pleasant, who said, women often put their own needs last and encouraged those gathered to make their health a priority. Tolbert said breast cancer was the second most common cancer found in women and second most common cancer in regard to death rates among women, though death rates have been declining, in part due to early detection.
Tolbert said women should continue to get mammograms into their 70’s and 80’s. She said if someone is expecting to live another 10 years of life, they should keep having them done.
Following remarks by Tolbert, Riffle and WVU Extension Educator Lorrie Wright, those gathered lit candles in memory of those who have fought cancer.
Prior to the remarks, the annual wreath hanging ceremony was held outside the Mason County Library, with the wreath symbolizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The invocation was given by Pastor Steve Sanderson of New Hope Bible Baptist Church.
Refreshments were served and health information and giveaway items were provided by the Mason County Health Department.
Later this month, the seventh annual Walk for Women, organized by Mason County CEOS clubs, with assistance from the health department, will return on a new day, at a new location and with a pancake breakfast on Saturday, Oct. 29, at the shelter at Riverfront Park in Point Pleasant. The pancake breakfast starts at 8:30 a.m. and the walk begins at 9:30 a.m. Guest entertainment will be Brooke Cromley Price.
To find out more information on the walk, or other events, call the WVU Extension Office at 304-675-0888.
Reach Beth Sergent at [email protected] and on Twitter @BSergentWrites.