Cancer Survivor Finds Community in Helping Others - Mountain News : News

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Cancer Survivor Finds Community in Helping Others

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Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2019 1:00 pm | Updated: 2:16 pm, Thu Oct 24, 2019.

Lauralea Hopper, a breast cancer survivor, shared her story with the Mountain News for our third article on Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Hopper has worked as a teacher and in administration all throughout the Rim of the World Unified School District and some may know her as the previous principal of Mary Putnam Henck Intermediate school. Hopper, a dedicated citizen of the mountain community, has spent over 15 years working with students of all ages. It was not until she was 50 years old that she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

The diagnosis was made at Mountains Community Hospital on their old equipment. Hopper said she was lucky her doctor had a good enough eye to catch her tumor on the dated equipment and scans.

“Now, it’s amazing what their equipment can do; it’s really come so far,” Hopper said. “My tumor was so small that you could not feel it and I was lucky they were able to catch mine at such an early stage... That is what was important... because, had I waited longer or not had mammograms it would have been much more severe.”

Hopper’s mother was formerly diagnosed with breast cancer and a survivor herself, so it was something she had prepared for and took precautions by making sure to get yearly mammograms.

For many women, self-exams are part of their monthly routine, but in this case, Hopper had zero signs or symptoms that anything might be off in her body. It’s a reminder to both women and men to follow up with their doctors and make sure to book mammograms yearly, especially if breast cancer runs in your family.

Hopper underwent chemotherapy and radiation, resulting in total hair loss. She took this diagnosis as a sign to have more fun, saying she used to feel so serious and stressed out all the time. She said she embraced her disease and fought through it, wearing a stylish new red wig.

“The whole process really changes your outlook on life. I think it was really a wake-up call for me. You go through all the stages of ‘oh my gosh I am going to die, this is terminal.’ However, I am just lucky I was diagnosed in this time period, I mean because right now it’s not a death sentence like it used to be,” Hopper said.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 268,600 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in females in 2019 alone. New technology and treatments, along with increased education and awareness of the disease, have brought those numbers down significantly throughout the years but over 41,700 of these women are estimated to lose their lives to the disease. This means that 1 in 8 women are likely to develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.

Hopper, who is now retired, has found passion in the Soroptimist International Rim of the World organization, a volunteer-based group put together by women, for women. The goal is to help improve the lives of girls and women in their local communities, mostly through after-school programs.

Hopper said she is a strong believer in providing help and support, just like she found with previous breast cancer survivors. She also said that she and the Soroptimist organization aim to provide the tools and confidence to help young women succeed the best they can. Through this program, Hopper said she has encouraged young women to live a healthy lifestyle and stay educated on things like breast cancer. The Soroptomist organization even has events to help bring awareness and raise money for breast cancer such as a DIY Decorated Bra auction where the girls design and decorate bras and auction them off to raise money for mammograms.

“I found community in the other breast cancer survivors and there is power in the community,” Hopper said.

Hopper added that she hopes to keep bringing awareness to breast cancer through her travels and active participation in organizations in the mountain community.

To donate for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, or to find out more information on helping to stop this disease, visit the American Cancer Society website at www.cancer.org.

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