By Robert Stoneback
DANVILLE — Michelle Keefer can recite few words from a phone conversation with her doctor nine years ago.
“I only remembered a few words from that call — carcinoma, cancer, chemo,” she said Thursday in the Henry Hood Center for Health Research at Geisinger Medical Center.
Keefer spoke at 6 p.m. during a presentation of the “67 Women, 67 Counties: Facing Breast Cancer in Pennsylvania” exhibit at the center.
More than 40 people attended the exhibit, featuring pictures of women from each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Each photo was accompanied by a quote from the women about how their experience changed their lives. The women were from all ages and stages of breast cancer, said Natalie Kopp, the communications director for the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.
Keefer, of Danville, added her picture to the exhibit about three years ago. Now cancer-free, she was diagnosed about nine years ago. When she first felt a lump on her breast, she didn’t think much of it. At a regular examination shortly after, she only mentioned the lump on her way out the door, at which point her doctor examined it. She received the diagnosis over the phone the next night.
Keefer’s son, Jacob, was only about two years old at the time she started chemo and her mother was a big help in looking after him. “Thank god for my mother,” she said. Jacob is now 11 years old.
Her treatment took place at Geisinger Medical Center. Keefer praised the work of her doctors, nurses, radiologists and other staff who treated her. “Everyone was wonderful,” she said.
Cheryl Delsite, of Sunbury, the photo subject from Northumberland County, was also in attendance. She has been cancer-free for 22 years, and feels that being part of this exhibit helps to show women they’re not alone when they’re diagnosed. Treatment of breast cancer and the conversation around it has come a long way, she said. She remembers a time when the word “breast” couldn’t be said in polite conversation.
The exhibit has been to just about every single county in the state, Kopp said. The exhibit began in 1994. “It has changed many times, it’s been updated with many stories, many photos and different formats,” she said.
The subject can choose to submit their own photos from any point in their diagnosis. Some are of the women and their support group while others might be from the day they were diagnosed.
“It’s been incredible. It’s really inspirational, empowering, and educational,” Kopp said. “There’s usually not a dry eye in the place after women share their stories.”
The exhibit will be on display at the Hood center through Nov. 6.