When 42-year-old Dianne Smith of Owasso went in for a routine mammogram in 2004, she had no idea her life would soon change forever. A follow-up biopsy revealed a lump.
“The doctor said ‘the report was very alarming,’” Dianne recalled. “I asked her if it was cancer and she said yes. I don’t remember much after that.”
She does remember the tears.
“My husband had gone to the appointment with me and was in the waiting room. They had to go get him; I was in shock,” she said.
It was two days after Christmas. With no history of breast cancer in her family, the busy mother of three helped her children handle the news the best she could.
“I had a freshman in college, a sophomore in high school and an 8-year-old at the time,” she said. “My daughters were of course old enough to know what was going on and were very concerned. There was a lot of crying going on.”
Dianne underwent two lumpectomies in January, followed chemotherapy and radiation.
“The chemo was bad, like everyone says, but it’s like childbirth — God kind of lets you forget it,” she said. “You just remember it was bad.”
Besides her husband and children, Dianne received support from her sister during that time. She would come up from Mississippi for each chemo treatment and stay for a week afterward while Dianne was recovering.
“She kept the household running while I was pretty much in bed every single day,” Dianne said.
This December, Dianne will celebrate nine years of being a cancer survivor.
She attributes her survival to her faith in God, along with the support of family, friends, and her church family at First Christian Church of Owasso.
“I’ve always had a very strong faith. I knew God was with me the entire time,” she said. “My surgeon, Dr. Lanette Smith, even prayed with me before surgery. Because of that I felt like I was in great hands.”
It was a few years later at a Chamber of Commerce function in downtown Tulsa that Dianne was introduced to Angela Walters, another breast cancer survivor who had founded BCAP (Breast Cancer Assistance Program), a non profit organization that helps those going through breast cancer treatments with rent or mortgage and utilities — electric, water and natural gas — if they have fallen behind due to their medical expenses.
“She invited me to a board meeting and I found out about what they did and got involved right away,” Dianne said. “I’ve been working with BCAP for three and a half years now.”
BCAP serves patients in 17 counties throughout Northeastern Oklahoma: Adair, Cherokee, Craig, Creek, Delaware, Kay, Mayes, Muskogee, Nowata, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pawnee, Rogers, Tulsa, Wagoner and Washington.
Dianne serves on the patient committee which evaluates applications and makes sure they meet the criteria before the board votes. She also follows up with the patients after they receive help.
“We have found that there are so many people who are worried about meeting their basic financial needs rather than focusing on their recovery,” Dianne said.
Since it began in 2006, the all-volunteer organization had raised over $200,000 and helped more than 120 people.
Money is raised through donations and fundraisers, with 80 percent going directly to patients, five percent to an endowment, and up to 15 percent for operating costs.
Their biggest fundraiser each year is “Bunco for BCAP” which had 80 participants this year. In the past, they’ve also hosted a “Pink Carpet Fashion Show,” in which survivors are the models.
The past four years, the organization has provided Christmas baskets for all the patients they’ve helped that year. The baskets include a Christmas meal, a gift card for perishables, and gifts for everyone in the household.
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Dianne’s advice to women is simple: Get your mammogram. It saves lives.
“I couldn’t feel the lump they found. If I would’ve waited until I felt it, it would’ve been too late,” she said.
And for breast cancer patients undergoing treatment and in need financial assistance: Ask for help. It’s available.
“People want to help, that’s why they donate the money,” she said.
While her life did change forever that day in 2004, Dianne says it was ultimately for the good.
“I’ve met so many people through this organization and so many survivors. It’s been a blessing to come in contact with those people that I wouldn’t have otherwise. As I’ve talked and interacted with other survivors, I’ve grown so much,” she said.
For more information about BCAP or to make a donation, visit www.bcapfund.org.