Employees Health

Using a fall favorite to engage the community in the fight against breast cancer

Pumpkin spice lattés, pumpkin spice yogurt, even pumpkin spice lip balm. When it comes to fall, pumpkin can be put in anything you can imagine. For Laurie Woolard, pumpkins are the key to making sure women can pay for a routine mammogram, because that screening saved her life from breast cancer.

Woolard, who started her job as Community Outreach Coordinator at the Georgia Cancer Center in February, was diagnosed two weeks after starting her job.

“I was completely, utterly stunned when the surgeon told me they found malignant cells,” Laurie said. “I think I was almost in denial. I just thought there was no way this could be happening to me.”

Woolard said her team of doctors had been following a spot on her breast for about two years, but never said anything about it possibly being cancerous. And the mammogram that found that spot, which would eventually need a biopsy, almost didn’t happen.

“I thought to myself I really hate to ask my new boss for 3 or four hours off when I had just gotten here,” she said.

But her boss, Cancer Information and Awareness director Christine O’Meara, is a major advocate for screenings. She travels to different health fairs and events across the CSRA teaching about how detecting cancers sooner can increase a person’s chances of survival.

Woolard and O’Meara serve on the planning committee for the Pink Pumpkin Party. It’s a chance for breast cancer survivors and others to come out, paint a pumpkin pink and raise money to help women pay for their routine mammogram screening.

“I think the first thing that hit me about the Pink Pumpkin Party is how excited I was about where the money goes,” Woolard said. “These are women who might not be able to afford a mammogram without the money we raise.”

The event, planned for Sept. 30, will take place at the J. Harold Harrison, MD Education Commons building.

Woolard had surgery, followed by radiation therapy. Her last radiation treatment happened in July. For now, she shows no sign of disease. Woolard is taking steps to lower her risk for recurrence with the hormone therapy, Tamoxifen. She said she wants to use the Pink Pumpkin Party as an opportunity to share her story.

“To have the opportunity to educate and give my own personal testimony could help other breast cancer patients is important to me,” she said. “I really think when you’re talking about any kind of cancer or any kind of disease, that having first-hand knowledge can help you to empathize with what people are going through.”

Woolard says she’s happy to talk with any member of her Augusta University family who is interested in volunteering at the Pink Pumpkin Party. You can call her at (706) 446-5122 or send her an email.

About the author

Chris Curry

Chris Curry is Communications Coordinator for the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-799-8841 or chrcurry@augusta.edu.