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Survivor puts a face on cancer

October is breast cancer awareness month

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POSTED: October 1, 2010 10:47 a.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

Jan Shearhouse Alexuk

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Hinesville resident Jan Shearhouse Alexuk is an ordained minister, a college professor and a breast cancer survivor. The Rev. Alexuk, 60, was one of 10 area women selected to participate in the 2010 Voices & Faces of Breast Cancer Luncheon and Fashion Show last Saturday in Savannah. She and fellow survivors of various ages and backgrounds put a face on the disease, helping to raise public awareness.
The event was sponsored by the American Cancer Society and WSAV-TV. In addition to last week’s fashion show, Voices & Faces organizers will place pictorial displays of Alexuk and other survivors at locations around Savannah, such as at area malls.
The Central Texas College adjunct professor gently encourages her students to pass along the importance of early detection. Alexuk teaches classes at the Sgt. First Class Paul R. Smith Army Education Center just outside of Fort Stewart’s main gate.
“I give my students bookmarks that remind them of the importance of having an annual mammogram,” Alexuk said. “Many of my students are young and most of them are soldiers. I give these bookmarks to both men and women. I tell them ‘Send this to your mother, give this to your mother-in-law or your aunt.’”
Alexuk’s breast cancer was found early on a routine mammogram at Winn Army Community Hospital in September 2008, she said.
“By the time I would have felt the lump or lumps, it would have been full-blown, it was so deep in my breast,” she said. “That (diagnosis) was followed by a biopsy and lumpectomy. They went in looking for one lump and they found two. Then that was followed by 35 (almost daily) radiation treatments.”
The professor’s physician gave her a 98 percent survival rate since the cancer was caught early. Still, the treatment schedule wore her out. 
“I would teach three classes then drive to Savannah for radiation. My treatments began the first week in December and went to the middle of January. I even had radiation on Christmas Eve,” she said.
Because she was fatigued, her soldier students pitched in and helped her lug her books and teaching materials from the ground floor lobby upstairs to her classroom and then downstairs again each day.
“I got excellent support from the school and from the soldiers,” she said. “I only missed three days of school (for surgery).” 
Like Alexuk, Deidre Howell, administrator for the Liberty County Health Department, says every woman should receive screenings for breast cancer, regardless of income.
“Women who are uninsured or underinsured can contact the health department at 876-2173, ext. 218 for information regarding receiving a free mammogram,” Howell said.
Howell reminds residents a Liberty Shoppers Expo will be held today from noon-7 p.m. at the Econo Lodge in Hinesville. Proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit breast cancer charities, she said.
On Oct. 16, the first “Breast Health Celebration,” a joint event between Winn Army Preventative Medicine and the health department, will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Army Education Center.
“Both Winn Army and Liberty Regional Medical Center will be doing mammograms on that Saturday for eligible women,” Howell said. “This event is open to both civilian and military, including retirees and veterans and there is no charge for any service at this event.”
Eligible adults can also be vaccinated for tetanus, MMR, varicella, Hepatitis A or Hepatitis B and HPV, and  enjoy sessions on nutrition, exercise, skin care and relaxation.
A memory walk will kick off the celebration, Howell said. The one-mile walk will begin at 9:30 a.m. at Bradwell Park in downtown Hinesville and end at the Army Education Center.
“Folks are encouraged to come out and walk in memory or honor of someone they know who has been a victim of cancer,” she said.
 

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