By Kaytrina Curtis, Hunter Army Airfield Public AffairsOctober 29, 2009
SAVANNAH, Ga. - On and off the battlefield, servicemembers came together to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their brethren, and the Hunter Army Airfield Soldiers of the 260th Quartermaster Battalion out of Hunter Army Airfield shouldered the distress call from one of their own.
Throughout the streets of mid-town Savannah, traffic came to a halt to allow 260th QM Bn. Soldiers to run across the roads leading to the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer and Research Pavilion, Oct. 23.
Soldier's voices rang out as they sang in cadence, "Paint the town pink," an intonation they wrote especially for the run. As the Soldiers passed supportive citizens along the streets, children stood outside of schools and daycare centers along the route and held pink, red, white and blue balloons while cheering for the troops. The Paint the Town Pink initiative run was an effort to bring awareness to Soldiers, their Families, and those in the community about the importance of early detection of breast cancer.
The Center for Disease Control defines cancer as a disease that causes cells in the body to grow out of control, and when the cancer starts in the breast, it is called breast cancer.
Three months ago, one new Army officer was on a quest to climb the career ladder and vowed to continue to serve and protect American lives. Yet in the midst of her quest, a self-breast exam changed her life course. Today, she now helps bring to light the importance of early detection.
First lieutenant Andrea Graham, 260th Quartermaster Battalion, bravely stood before 500 Soldiers and many others in the Savannah community and told them something that she at first wanted to keep private. She said she felt as a leader her effectiveness would be jeopardized if she came forward with her news. In August 2009, 1st Lt. Graham was diagnosed with stage one, invasive breast cancer. Though she said it was difficult to divulge personal information, she felt it important that everyone be aware of the need for early detection.
"I didn't detect my breast cancer through a mammogram," 1st Lt. Graham said. "I found the lump myself."
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to occur in U.S. women this year, and approximately 1,910 in men. These estimates did not go unnoticed by 260th QM Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Lillard Evans. He said what is most important to him is awareness.
"We want Soldiers to be aware that early treatment and mammograms are key to the eradication this disease," he said. "There is a lot of research going on but right now. We don't have a solution to the research, so our way of getting at this (disease) is through early detection."
In a special ceremony at the end of the run, Paul Henchy, chief executive officer of St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital in Savannah, expressed his pride in the Soldiers who stood in formation before him.
"I can't thank you enough for protecting us all in the military sense," he said. "For all of you to try to protect us in a clinical sense is really an added dimension."
Referring to the Lewis Cancer Research Pavilion building, Henchey said they have all of the state-of-art equipment and technology, but if women detect breast cancer early, a positive outcome can derive from a tragic diagnosis.
To a round of applause and cheers of "hooahs," 1st Lt. Graham charged Soldiers to talk to friends, and Family about self-exams and mammography.
"I have been in the Army 16 years," said 1st Lt. Graham, who served as an enlisted Soldier first. "I understand the dedication of being a Soldier," she added. "I have decided that I will take a leave of absence, get healthy, fight cancer, get back in the fight and lead Soldiers."