Hospital begins mammogram fundraising campaign

Peggy Dills Kelter never had a lump. In fact, the cancer growing in her breast appeared as something resembling grains of sand during a routine mammogram last summer -- something she never would have detected on her own.

Dills Kelter, 45, had gone for her third regular mammogram since reaching the magic age of 40, when doctors recommend the procedure be done every two years.

"I was always really cavalier about it," said the Hood River artist. She'd just walked in the door of her house after the procedure at Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital when the phone rang. It was someone from the hospital's radiology department. They'd seen something on her film. They wanted to do more tests.

After more tests, she was sent for a biopsy.

Then she waited.

"That was the worst part for me," Dills Kelter said. "That sort of interim, no-man's land when you're wondering, `Do I have cancer or don't I?'"

After an endless, terrible week, Dills Kelter's doctor -- who was also a friend -- knocked on her door one day; Dills Kelter thought she'd stopped by for a social visit.

"I made a flippant comment, like `What, are you here with bad news or something?'" she said. Indeed she was.

Dills Kelter had ductal carcinoma, cancer in the breast's milk ducts.

Because it was caught on the mammogram, Dills Kelter's cancer was in such an early stage that doctor's referred to it as Stage 0.

Within 10 days she underwent a lumpectomy, then spent seven weeks having radiation treatments at Celilo Center, part of Mid-Columbia Medical Center in The Dalles. Last fall, she was given a clean bill of health.

"I still feel like it wasn't bad," Dills Kelter said. "But that's because it was detected so early in a mammogram."

Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital is kicking off a major fund-raising effort this month for the purchase of a new mammogram machine at the hospital. The current machine is about five years old and is ready for an upgrade.

"This unit is great," said mammogram technician Kimberly Mix. "But like everything, newer equipment just gets better."

The hospital foundation will raise the funds by raffling off a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe.

"It has an approximate value of $30,000," said Kristine Wilhelm, assistant director of marketing for the hospital. The car was sold to the hospital foundation by Phil Jensen. Raffle tickets, which cost $100, will be sold until August, with the winner to be picked from a drawing during a ceremony at Families in the Park on Aug. 1. According to Wilhelm, 980 raffle tickets will be available.

The new mammogram machine the hospital has its sights on is a newer version of the one it now has. Mix said the new one will have more sensors and produce better quality images while using less radiation. It also will be compatible for future upgrades to all-digital technology which will eventually be the industry standard.

Mix said she performs an average of 50 mammograms a week. Many catch cancerous changes in breast tissue early, like with Dills Kelter. Other times, mammograms are used to monitor potential changes.

That's what happened with Linda Rouches, owner of Professional Business Solutions. Three years ago, she found a lump in her breast herself. She had a mammogram and, after studying the results, her doctor said he didn't think it was anything to worry about.

"He said to keep checking it and if I thought it was changing, we'd look at it again," said Rouches, 60. A few weeks later, she was still concerned and had another mammogram -- which showed that it had changed. A biopsy revealed Stage 1 lobular breast cancer.

Rouches had a lumpectomy as well as four months of chemotherapy, followed by radiation treatment. She's been healthy ever since.

"Even though the mammogram didn't initially catch mine," Rouches said, "we used it to monitor changes."

For information about the fundraiser, or to buy a ticket for the car raffle, call foundation director Judy Spellecy at 386-6474. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.providence.org/hoodriver.

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