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Program helps women BATTLE breast cancer
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- When her little sister died shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer, grief wasn't the only emotion Peggy Crawford felt.
"My younger sister, Marsha, died at 45 years old, within 50 weeks of learning she had breast cancer. That really ticked me off," Crawford said. Marsha left an 8-year-old daughter behind.
Instead of remaining angry, Crawford started BATTLE, an acronym for Breast cancer Awareness To Teach Ladies Early detection.
"Nine years ago I sat down with my good friend Glenda Gregory, who was the Winston County Extension home economist, and asked her if she would partner with me on this," Crawford said. "We devised our protocol for BATTLE and began getting out information on the program."
Crawford was a member of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians Alliance, a group of physicians' spouses. For the first several years of the program, that organization partnered with Mississippi State University's Extension Service to provide breast cancer awareness programming. Last year, the Winston County Medical Center became a BATTLE partner.
Crawford and Gregory saturated the state with information in those first years on breast cancer awareness and prevention. The program was so successful that the two women were invited to the Information and Quality Healthcare Foundation in Jackson to explain the program's success.
"We were the best in the state per capita for women 50 to 65 years old getting mammograms done. We kept that record for seven years -- we just lost it this year by a fraction of a point to Ackerman," Crawford said. "That's because of this program."
Gregory's decision to become involved with BATTLE also was motivated by family: her mother had breast cancer, which was detected by a mammogram. Gregory said that experience showed her the importance of women having yearly mammograms. She said the program's impact on Winston County women and men has been tremendous.
"When we started out with the program, 34 percent of the ladies in Winston County over the age of 65 received mammograms. The last report we got showed around 67 percent received mammograms," Gregory said. "I don't know that BATTLE was the sole reason for this increase, but I do know it has made an impact on the ladies."
Gregory said the program is a result of two people getting involved in an awareness program and the county embracing it.
"Without the support of individuals, businesses, doctors and the hospital, this program could not have been such a success. In the last few years, a planning committee was formed. This committee meets to plan our luncheon and shares in the work pulling it all together," Gregory said.
Local doctors approve of the program and support it by purchasing tables at the BATTLE luncheon and fashion show. The first BATTLE luncheon was held six years ago and served 32 guests. Now that number has grown to 325, with only space limiting further growth.
"The first luncheon we had, the idea was to buy a ticket for yourself and one for an underserved person who might not normally have an annual mammogram. The next year, we started selling tables to businesses and individuals. A table seats six people, and sponsoring one table allows six people to eat, receive information on breast cancer prevention and see the fashion show," Gregory said.
The luncheon features a well-known breast cancer-related keynote speaker, often a survivor or relative of a survivor. Crawford said the first keynote speaker was a young man whose presentation was called "What it's like when your mother has breast cancer."
"There wasn't a dry eye in the room -- men and women were crying," she said.
For the fashion revue, breast cancer survivors model clothes from stores in Winston County. As each model walks the runway, an emcee tells how long the model has been a survivor.
The program is such a success that other Mississippi counties now hope to start their own BATTLE groups. Crawford credits the program's success to the firm grasp breast cancer has on people's lives.
"Everyone is touched by breast cancer in some fashion because we all have a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a wife -- and even our daughters can get this disease," Crawford said.
Though she lost her own sister, Crawford's hope is that awareness will prevent other young women from losing their lives.
"We really believe that when God closes one window, He opens another one somewhere," she said. "If Marsha hadn't died, I wouldn't have gotten involved with BATTLE."
Contact: Glenda Gregory, (662) 773-2882