FORT POLK - Fort Polk's Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital and the Vernon Parish Chamber of Commerce hosted its fifth annual Breast Cancer Awareness Luncheon today at the Family Readiness Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Col. Marla J. Ferguson, BJACH commander, started off the event by speaking on the importance of raising awareness through events such as the annual luncheon.
"We need to build confidence in knowing that through awareness, early detection and treatment we can beat breast cancer," Ferguson said.
She then acknowledged the breast cancer survivors in the room and asked them to stand, applauding them for their courage.
"Look at the amazing group of women who are here with us today. They each have their own story," Ferguson said to attendees. "They are each a living testament of how to defeat the enemy that we know as breast cancer."
Among the survivors in attendance was LaShawn Bryant.
Bryant, a single mother of four kids, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 34. After reaching out to her doctor about sharp breast pain, she was referred to a doctor in Houston, Texas, where her diagnosis was confirmed.
"The doctor did an ultrasound, and immediately she found the cancer," Bryant said. "She asked, 'Do you believe in God?' And I said, 'Yes.' She said, "Can I pray with you?' and I said, 'Yes.' So, we prayed and then she told me the next steps."
After receiving her biopsy results, she started chemotherapy. Now, Bryant has been in remission for 14 years. She said events like the luncheon are important.
"The event makes me proud because even back 14 years ago, breast cancer was not something that was talked about," Bryant said. "This is my second year coming, and I love it. It's very informative, supportive, and helps people who would normally not want to talk about it to come out and share their story."
The guest speakers for the event were Dr. Stephen J. Delatte, Board Certified Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, and Dr. Hugo St-Hilaire, Louisiana State University, New Orleans, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery chief. They both addressed breast reconstruction, and the different procedures and options available to patients.
Both Delatte and St-Hilaire stressed that their goal is keep patients informed and give them a good quality of life after beating breast cancer.
"What's important is to get patients to realize all the options that are out there," St-Hilaire said.
"There's life after breast cancer. The goal of breast reconstruction really is to restore a sense of wholeness. Every technique that we do is to work towards that goal," Delatte added. "At the end of the day, my hope is a year later when you're looking back at this experience, that you can get up every day, get dressed and go about your life and do all the activities you want to do whether or not you had a mastectomy. If we can make that happen, then I feel like we have accomplished our goal."