Spring Spa Day support 

May 11

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Janet Ward truly believes that a person should "listen" to her body if something doesn't feel normal.

Her journey from bewilderment to an ensuing lumpectomy proved this to be true, Ward told a crowd at the recent Spring Spa Day at Methodist Hospitals' Southlake campus in Merrillville.

"I was getting ready to go for my regular mammogram when I felt something, and thought that it would show up when I had this done," said Ward, a Gary resident. "It didn't. I even had an ultrasound, and there was nothing significant to detect there either."

But she persevered, going for another ultrasound, pointing out the area in her breast that was causing concern.

This time, the mass was felt and seen. She was scheduled for a needle biopsy and, after that, the cancerous tumor was removed. Ward did not lose her breast, but she had to undergo 36 radiation sessions.

During the recent morning spa event, more than 40 women participated in skin care consultations, bone density screenings, chair massages and a seminar by Dr. Jeffery Flagg, a board-certified plastic surgeon.

Flagg discussed breast reconstruction surgery, staying for a question-and-answer period after his talk.

Breast cancer survivor Cindy Keilman of Crown Point said she was glad to hear that concerns after surgery could be addressed.

She said the spa event lifted the spirits of current patients, as well as survivors.

"I think I am speaking for all of us as survivors -- when you see all of these women here, you realize you are not alone," Keilman said. "Many are going through the same things as you are."

The annual Spring Spa Day was offered through Methodist Hospitals' Oncology Department and a grant from the Pink Ribbon Society. The morning's schedule provided breast cancer patients and survivors an opportunity to be educated and pampered.

A dozen vendors offered goods for sale. On one table, baskets of colorful teddy bears waited to be taken home.

They weren't for sale, though. They were gifts from the Ray of Hope Foundation.

Based in Gary, the foundation holds a large concert each year, with the admission price consisting of stuffed bears.

"We receive hundreds of bears each year, which allows us to distribute them to cancer patients and cancer survivors," foundation director Eddie Scott Jr. said.

The first Spring Spa Day was in 2007 at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus.

Marie Bates, Methodist Hospitals oncology research coordinator, was instrumental in developing the event after becoming acquainted with members of the Pink Ribbon Society.

"I began brainstorming ideas for an event that would celebrate survivorship and provide support to those diagnosed with breast cancer," she said. "My goal was to combine the efforts of Methodist Hospitals and the Pink Ribbon Society and provide a pampering experience for breast cancer patients and survivors. We wanted the event to be something different, something new, and a chance for the survivors to enjoy the camaraderie of each other."

Ward's story at the beginning of Flagg's seminar struck a chord with many in the audience.

"I want to tell everyone here today that you know your body better than anyone else," Ward added. "Listen to that small voice inside you and find out what's wrong."

"Courtesy of Post-Tribune 2010. Reprinted with permission."

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