When Carolyn Yarberry noticed some alarming changes to one of her breasts, she could not deny something was wrong but chose to keep her suspicions to herself. With limited financial means, she tried to place her worry in the back of her mind while she attended to what she believed were more pressing matters.
The 58-year-old Conyers resident was more worried about her husband’s medical needs and was struggling to find the funds to buy essential medication for his heart and back problems. The couple had both been out of work since 2000 after her husband injured his back on the job and she quit work to care for him.
Yarberry had turned to the Helping Hands clinic in Conyers for treatment of her diabetes and high blood pressure. It was there in 2011 that she finally had her breasts examined, after which she was immediately scheduled for a mammogram.
Uninsured and living on a fixed income, Yarberry received a voucher for a free mammogram at Spivey Station of Southern Regional Hospital in McDonough where she learned she had stage four breast cancer.
It was the first mammogram Yarberry had ever had.
After doctors found two tumors in both of her breasts, she had a double mastectomy this February. She has since completed six rounds of chemotherapy and is facing 33 radiation treatments, which will be administered five days a week for the next seven weeks.
“Without Helping Hands I would be dead by now because there was not anywhere else for me to go,” Yarberry said. “They saved my life.”
Yarberry’s daughter Becky Farmer, stepped in as primary caretaker for her mother, giving her baths, helping her change her bandages and taking her to her treatments.
If hearing her mother had cancer wasn’t frightening enough, Farmer, then 35 and a mother of three young children, was told she was at a high-risk for breast cancer and needed to have a mammogram immediately.
The test identified spots on one her breasts, leading to a biopsy which thankfully revealed a benign fibrosis.
“I was scared," said Farmer. "A lot goes through your mind. Your whole world can change with one test. I was so relieved when I knew I was OK. It was like getting a second chance. It makes you realize you really need to take care of your body and have all the necessary tests done."
Taking precautionary measures, she will still go in for a mammogram every six months because her mother and her aunt have had stage-five breast cancer.
Coincidentally, Yarberry’s sister and Farmer’s aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy on the same day as Yarberry’s surgery in February.
Helping Hands President Janice Morris and her team of volunteers work to find resources for Rockdale residents who are uninsured or under-insured. Through that process, they grow close to the patients they help and their caretakers, and it was Morris who provided Farmer with the voucher she needed for her mammogram in addition to leading Yarberry to the resources she needed for breast cancer. Helping Hands has a partnership with Spivey Station of Southern Regional using a grant funded by the Susan G. Komen Foundation. According to Morris, the grant has funded 327 mammograms for Rockdale residents over the last three years. She said there are currently 250 vouchers available for free mammograms.
“Once we identify something, we have volunteers who make sure the patient has nothing to worry about,” Morris said. “They go home and we start making phone calls to our resources.”
Helping Hands, which operates with funds raised through grants, sponsorships and donations, will be offering mammogram vouchers throughout the month for low-income patients with proof of residency and income at the Helping Hands clinic at 1733 Lake Rockaway Road.
For more information, contact (770) 860-9545 or go to http://helpinghandsoutreach.org.