COLORADO SPRINGS — "This is the first time she held you when you were so tiny," I say to our daughter Claire as we look through family photo albums.
Family photos and videos captured ordinary moments with my mother-in-law, Pam. But she was fighting an extraordinary battle behind the scenes, a second breast cancer diagnosis years after she beat it.
This time it was a fast, aggressive cancer called angiosarcoma.
It came back due to the radiation treatment she underwent, once again giving her a very rare form of cancer.
Every picture and every memory are now even more precious. I took any chance I could to capture her face, her voice. Even from her hospital bed just a few weeks before she passed as she recorded audiobooks for her grandchildren.
"I love you, and your parents and I’m enjoying reading this to you just before your second birthday," my mother-in-law said as she recorded one audiobook.
One of the hardest parts was watching my husband care for her in those final days. I don’t think anyone wants to watch a parent go through that kind of pain and the tenderness and the love that he showed her in those final moments were so special.
Her story is now my motivation to remain vigilant about my own health and my determination to publicly show other women just how easy it is to get a mammogram done.
"Just get screened," said PENRAD lead mammographer Sherrie Stark. "It’s one of the best tools we have. You can actually see cancer on film."
Waiting for the results is the hard part. Thankfully, the four mammograms I have completed since I turned 40 years old have not shown any evidence of cancer. It's a screening I'm not willing to miss to help keep our daughter from facing another tragic loss.
The biggest reason women don't get mammograms is because of a lack of health insurance.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation says their most recent data from 2019 shows that among women 55 to 64, only 40% of those without health insurance had a mammogram in the past 3 years. That number jumps to 72% if they have Medicaid or other public insurance and to 80% for those with private health insurance.
There are a number of places in Colorado you can get it done for free, or at a low cost.
To find out if you qualify for a free or low-cost screening through the state's Women's Wellness Connection, call (866) 951-9355 or go online.
This interactive map shows where you can get free breast cancer screenings at more than 100 clinics across Colorado.
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