Baltimore City Cancer Program's Manic Monday Performance Leads to One Woman's Breast Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
Cassandra Warthen lost her battle with breast cancer in August, 2007. During her two-year struggle with the disease, she became an advocate for the Baltimore City Cancer Program's early detection and awareness efforts among uninsured women in Baltimore City. Our staff grew to know and love Cassandra during her cancer journey and we will remember her for her strength, courage and grace in the face of her illness.
Regular viewers of WJZ-TV's morning news program know that each Monday morning at 6:00 a.m., local groups come on the air to sing the song Manic Monday. The staff of the Baltimore City Cancer Program (BCCP) was one of those to perform the song -- and they took the opportunity to publicize the free breast cancer screening services available to uninsured women in Baltimore City. The BCCP is part of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC). Baltimore City resident Cassandra Warthen happened to be watching that morning, and she immediately called the phone number for BCCP.
Cassandra had never had a mammogram. She had noticed a lump in her breast a few months prior, but put her concerns aside, since she had no health insurance. She had recently started a new career as a court reporter after raising her three children, and was looking forward to buying her own coverage as soon as she could afford it.
The staff at BCCP referred her to the Breast Evaluation and Treatment Program at UMGCC, and her mammogram was scheduled for the next very week. "The staff at the BCCP just embraced me and did everything they could to get me the proper care," noted Warthen. "They saw how upset I was, and they never made me feel guilty for not getting screened sooner."
After a breast biopsy and a consultation with the UMGCC Breast Program team, Cassandra was found to have cancer in both breasts. Her treatment included chemotherapy to shrink her tumors, to be followed by surgery and radiation. Her close relationship with her two daughters was a tremendous help to her at this time.
"It's hard not to feel good when you're around people who are so positive," she said of the BCCP staff. "They've been wonderful. Now that my treatment is underway, I feel positive. I'm thinking bigger-picture these days," she explains. "This experience makes you less concerned with the little things."
According to the staff of the Baltimore City Cancer Program, the choreographed performance on TV generated considerable interest in their free screening program. Dr. Stacy Garrett-Ray, medical director of BCCP, noted: "The way that Cassandra found us is unique, but I'm hoping that we can reach many more women who could benefit from our free screening services. Our program is especially designed to help women like Cassandra overcome their fears or their lack of insurance, and get the care they need."
Speaking at a memorial service for Cassandra and her family held at the medical center, Dr. Garrett-Ray spoke of the lasting impact that Cassandra had on the people she touched:
"At UMMC, our motto is 'We heal, we teach, we discover.' . . . Cassandra Warthen was one of my best teachers and motivators to continue doing what I do today. I wish she could have been with us longer, but I know that God brought Cassandra into our lives at the right time, maybe not for her, but for us. She taught us about the importance of family, laughter, spirituality and faith, and especially about the importance of access to health care for all, regardless of your socioeconomic status..."
Baltimore City Cancer Program, University of Maryland
4538 Edmondson Avenue
Baltimore, Md. 21229
The Baltimore City Cancer Program provides free mammograms and breast exams for uninsured women age 40 and over. For more information, call 410-328-HOPE (4673).
An initiative of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC), the Baltimore City Cancer Program (BCCP) is funded by the State of Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund program.