Local campaign aims to encourage breast cancer screening

Rhonda Sagraves and Patty Davis look over newspaper clippings detailing the breast cancer diagnosis of Sagraves' husband, Greg, while sitting in the Springfield Cancer Center.
Caption
Rhonda Sagraves and Patty Davis look over newspaper clippings detailing the breast cancer diagnosis of Sagraves' husband, Greg, while sitting in the Springfield Cancer Center.

South Vienna woman, patient advocates for breast cancer screening of everyone

Mercy Health is encouraging area residents to get screened for breast cancer regularly, a move they hope will save lives.

Since the beginning of October, which is Breast cancer Awareness Month, the hospital network has operated the WOMAN UP campaign, an initiative to educate, encourage and empower women to take care of their breast health, said Tracey Hanlin, who works as the Mobile Mammography Program Specialist at Mercy Health.

Mercy Health operates a mobile mammogram unit; people interested in screening can pre-register by calling 937-523-9332, but some walk-ins will be accepted.

“Many women skipped their mammogram in 2020 – we’re hoping to catch those ladies and the ones who have recently turned 40 (when we get our “baseline” screen), and get everyone back on track,” Hanlin said.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2019, 1,744 deaths from breast cancer occurred among women. However, ODH reported that from 2010-2019, breast cancer death rates decreased by 11%.

Nearly 10,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in the state each year, ODH reported

Rhonda Sagraves, a cancer diagnosis initially meant missing out on her grandchildren’s track, football and cheerleading events, activities she cherishes.

When she began seeking medical opinions after experiencing breast pain this year, she had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t end well for her. She knew the process of scheduling appointments, corresponding with doctors, and hearing bad news all too well. Her husband, Greg, battled breast cancer himself. He passed away in 2009.

Caption
Greg Sagraves, the husband of Rhonda, was the subject of multiple News-Sun articles in the 2000s following his breast cancer diagnosis.

Greg Sagraves, the husband of Rhonda, was the subject of multiple News-Sun articles in the 2000s following his breast cancer diagnosis.
Caption
Greg Sagraves, the husband of Rhonda, was the subject of multiple News-Sun articles in the 2000s following his breast cancer diagnosis.

In March, Sagraves underwent a breast exam, and doctors found two tumors . A biopsy later revealed that the tumors were cancerous. She told the News-Sun that prior to that appointment, she hadn’t had a mammogram for 14 years.

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“It’s almost as if I didn’t want to know,” she said. “And I was mad at myself for letting it go this long.”

Sagraves nodded to the importance of screening, saying even with self-examinations, she couldn’t feel abnormalities like lumps, a common occurrence among breast cancer patients.

Sagraves noted that although breast cancer is often associated with women, it’s important for men to consider that they may be at-risk, too. Following her husband’s diagnosis, their two sons began screening as a safety precaution, she said.

Family has been a major support through her treatment and helping her make steps along the way. For example, Sagraves had her son, Bryan, cut her hair after chunks of it began falling out, and it initially was not an emotional act.

“It was driving me crazy,” she said. “It was coming out by the handfuls.”

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After he finished her haircut, Bryan shaved his own head. His young son did the same as an act of solidarity and support toward Sagraves.

Her community at large has also served as a major support for Sagraves, she said. Those living in South Vienna may know Sagraves for her seat on South Vienna Village Council or for her involvement as chairperson of the Corn Festival, and event she loves.

“Really, the kindness and support have been overwhelming,” she said.

Sagraves’ year has been filled with appointments and procedures. She underwent four rounds of chemotherapy, from April to July. Sagraves said that her chemotherapy went smoothly, and she had minimal nausea through the process and didn’t feel as if her energy was depleted. Her sister, Patty Davis — who is also a retired nurse — helped her through her chemotherapy and beyond.

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“She was a trooper,” Davis said.

In August, Sagraves underwent a lumpectomy, which is a surgery that aims to remove cancerous tissue. This month, she began radiation therapy, which will span for 21 sessions.

Sagraves said that although a cancer diagnosis is scary, she had a sense of comfort knowing that many of the same doctors and nurses who cared for her husband were also caring for her. She considers the Springfield Cancer Center a “second home,” she said.

In the Springfield Cancer Center, a bell is mounted on the entryway for patients to ring to signify a joyous moment or the end of treatment.

“I will ring that bell some day,” Sagraves said.


By the Numbers:

1,744: The breast cancer deaths among women in Ohio that occurred in 2019

11: The percentage in decrease in breast cancer deaths in Ohio from 2010-2019

10,000: The number of cases reported annually in the state

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