Race offers meaningMary Shaw is a dragon boat veteran. For three years, the administrator of St. Mary’s Hospital of Superior and Duluth Clinic-Superior dipped her paddle to the beat of the drum as part of the health organization’s team during the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Mary Shaw is a dragon boat veteran.
For three years, the administrator of St. Mary’s Hospital of Superior and Duluth Clinic-Superior dipped her paddle to the beat of the drum as part of the health organization’s team during the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival.
“I won’t say we did excessively well,” she said, but “It was a wonderful event.”
The races, hosted by the Superior Rotary Club, Duluth’s Harbortown Rotary Club and the Superior Sunrise Centennial Rotary Club, bring the community together and raise funds for the SMDC Breast Cancer and Health Fund. When the dragons skim across the water Saturday, it will mean more to Shaw than it has in the past. This spring, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Her annual mammogram screening in May showed a suspicious area. Shaw made an appointment to get a clearer picture through dense tissue with a digital mammogram at the SMDC Breast Health Center in Duluth. Her doctor could see a cluster of cells on the left side near her chest wall; a needle biopsy showed it was cancer.
“I would never have found it be myself,” Shaw said. “This is just a blessing it was caught so early.”
Mammograms are critical tools in the early detection and treatment of breast cancer, the most common cancer among American women after skin cancers. Women have a one in eight chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some point in their lives, according to the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, according to the ACS, but death rates have been declining since 1990 due to earlier detection, increased awareness and improved treatment.
From the American Cancer Society to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to local medical centers, annual mammograms are encouraged for women age 40 and older.
“It’s very important,” said Shelly Moen, lab radiology manager at St. Mary’s Hospital of Superior. “The earlier the detection, the better.” She said a baseline mammogram can be taken as early as age 35 and no physician’s order is needed for the screening.
Moen had her first mammogram this year.
“I just called the department to schedule it,” she said.
Shaw got her diagnosis shortly after a campaign to raise funds for a new digital mammography machine to replace the current film machine at St. Mary’s Hospital of Superior was launched.
Film mammography has been used for more than 35 years and has proven successful in early breast cancer detection. Moen called it the “gold star” method. Like exchanging a film camera for a digital camera, a digital mammography machine offers added benefits. It uses less radiation, stores data electronically and provides quicker results. In addition, it provides more clarity for women with dense breast tissue.
A digital unit would give hospital staff the ability to screen more patients, Moen said.
“On nurse days we’re booked almost a month out,” she said.
The newer technology would also prevent delays in detection, Shaw said, as only one screening would be needed.
Last year, the dragon boat races netted more than $70,000 for the SMDC Breast Cancer and Health Fund. Part of the funds raised this year will go toward a digital mammography machine for Superior along with compassionate care for breast cancer patients needing help with travel, accommodations, wigs and other costs.
Shaw won’t be paddling this year, however. She is recovering from breast cancer surgery and finishing six weeks of radiation treatment. Thanks to early detection and quick treatment, she said, her survival rate is “quite high.”
The hospital administrator will be down on Barker’s Island to cheer on the dragon boat teams and offer water and bananas to participants.
“It will mean a little bit more to me,” Shaw said. “The breast cancer survivors that paddle, I’ll be with them in my heart.”