For rural women, local breast center saves lives

Garden City residents with pink hard hats
Garden City residents with pink hard hats

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and in Garden City, one woman’s battle with the deadly disease pushed her to help other women stay healthy

“I was 33,” said Heather Wright-Renick. “If I had waited until the age of 40, it would have been too late.”

Four years ago, Wright-Renick began her battle with breast cancer, saying a breast exam helped save her life.

Today, she works as the breast program director at St. Catherine Hospital’s Breast Center.

“I’ve been a nurse for years at Saint Catherine Hospital,” she said, “so after I finished my treatment and everything, I came back to work, and they asked me if we would build a breast program so that we could bring these services to southwest Kansas.”

The center opened in 2013 and received accreditation by the American College of Surgeons in 2014, making it one of only five such centers in Kansas.

“We’re the first accredited breast cancer center between Topeka and Colorado Springs,” said Wright-Renick, “but that’s why it was so important for us to be able to do it.”

It’s unusual for a rural area to have a comprehensive breast center, but Heather knows firsthand the importance of having these resources nearby.

“We deserve comprehensive breast care close to home,” she said. “We shouldn’t have to drive three hours or six hours to get that care. We deserve to have comprehensive breast cancer right here.”

On Monday, EMCOR brought their annual Pink Hard Hat program to Garden City. They presented a $30,000 check to the center. The money was donated by EMCOR companies, local contractors, and their employees.

EMCOR employees are wearing pink hard hats throughout October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, hoping the pink will remind others to get screened early.

“The more people that talk about it,” said Wright-Renick, “the earlier we’re going to find it. I don’t want them to be ashamed of their diagnosis. I want them to talk about it and go get help and to talk to their friends and family about it and know that there are resources out there.”

Doctors recommend getting annual mammograms starting at age 40, but as Wright-Renick said, cancer can appear earlier than that, so regular self exams are important early on.