PENDLETON — All Annie Grinstead wanted was a chance.
A motivated businesswoman and farmer, Grinstead in January discovered an itchy spot under the underwire of her bra. Within a few days, the Greenfield woman was diagnosed with metaplastic triple negative breast cancer, one of the rarest and most aggressive forms of breast cancer.
Grinstead, a mother, wife, sister and daughter, had little interest in adding “patient” to the words used to describe her. But with the help of her family and pastor, Grinstead has remained strong and focused through treatments that are ongoing.
Such care, she knows, is the best chance for a woman to survive. She shared that sentiment with a crowd of some 350 people gathered Wednesday at a fundraising event aimed at helping provide more of those chances to women in need.
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Women Helping Women, a fundraiser coordinated by the Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation, provides medical exams to uninsured and under-insured women in Hancock County. Donations brought in at the event offset the cost of mammograms, biopsies, pelvic exams and prostheses for women who have undergone mastectomies. The fundraiser, conducted Wednesday evening at BluFalls Arts and Event Center in Pendleton, also helps provide education and guidance through the next steps after a cancer diagnosis, said Nancy Davis, the Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation’s executive director.
In 2015, about $50,000 raised at the event helped more than 130 women receive free or reduced medical care at the Andis Women’s Clinic at the hospital, where Becky Pohland serves as patient coordinator and works directly with the women aided by the fundraiser.
Every woman at the Andis Women’s Clinic is screened for eligibility in the Women Helping Women program, which is based on income and other factors such as the patient’s need for extensive medical treatments, Pohland said. Her goal is to provide preventive care for all women year over year, she said.
The foundation has hosted a Women Helping Women fundraiser for 18 years, and each event brings in money that stays in Hancock County, said Allyson Smith, the foundation’s manager.
Women Helping Women began in 1998 with the creation of the Women’s Health Task Force. The program’s first celebration and fundraiser was planned the next year, and more than $10,000 in donations led to 26 women receiving mammograms.
The event has grown significantly since then. This year’s event raised money in a variety of ways, including live and silent auctions, penny wars-style voting on decorated bras and a signature drink being served at a cash bar.
Each year, the event celebrates breast cancer survivors and shares the stories of patients and those helping them battle the disease.
Members of the Women Helping Women committee honored Dr. James T. Anderson, who died in June after an illness. Anderson, for whom the James T. Anderson M.D. Center for Women’s Health is named, practiced family medicine for 45 years in Greenfield and often comforted patients facing breast cancer diagnoses, officials said.
For the first time this year, the event also included Fund a Need, which aimed to raise money for 3D mammography, which is now offered at Hancock Regional Hospital.
Tomosynthesis mammography, which produces a 3-D image, increases breast cancer detection by more than 40 percent and decreases the chances a woman will be called back for further diagnostic testing, officials said.
However, the cutting-edge technology is not yet covered by many insurance companies. Each scan costs the patient $158. This year’s Fund a Need — which tallied donations made via smartphone live on a projection screen — sought to raise a total of $3,000 toward funding the tomosynthesis mammography for uninsured women. The goal was achieved within minutes, and organizers are still totaling the amount raised from the event.
Grinstead watched with a smile as the donations rolled in.
After she was diagnosed with metaplastic triple negative breast cancer, one of the rarest types of cancer, Grinstead’s mantra was “I have to have a chance.” She has made it through 16 chemotherapy infusions, a double mastectomy surgery and four of six rounds of oral chemotherapy so far. In her future are 25 radiation sessions as well, she said.
Helping women acquire medical care like mammograms gives them a chance to catch cancer in its early stages and beat the disease, Grinstead said.
“Without mammograms, these women are missing what I begged and prayed for — a chance,” she said.