PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Breast Cancer Awareness Month began on Oct. 3 with the official opening of the County Cancer Hall of Courage at The Aroostook Medical Center and the premiere of the region’s first pink newspaper special section in all four Aroostook weekly newspapers.
Rosa Michaud of Presque Isle, a breast cancer survivor, was announced as the first honoree to have her profile featured in the Hall of Courage. The ceremony included the unveiling of a large print featuring Michaud’s photo and courageous story of her battle with cancer. It will hang on the wall in the corridor just outside the entrance of TAMC’s Aroostook Cancer Care Center along with 11 other profiles in courage that will be announced, one per month, during the coming year.
“Rosa’s story is truly inspirational and an ideal first profile for us to feature in the County Cancer Hall of Courage. It tells about the impact of cancer on the entire family and on our community, as well,” said TAMC President and Chief Executive Officer Sylvia Getman. “Her story illustrates both the far-reaching impact of this horrible disease and also the strong support network that is so critically important to those who battle with and fight cancer. It also speaks of a woman who, after fighting her own battle with cancer, became a champion for others fighting the disease.
“Rosa serves as an inspiration … not only to those who will walk through this hall, but to those who will read in the paper and think about their lives,” she said. “She will help make a difference.”
Michaud was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 1991 after a routine mammogram found a mass. Her story details the emotional, psychological and physical struggles she faced through a mastectomy, nine months of chemotherapy, and the decision to voluntarily have a second mastectomy on her remaining breast to reduce her risk of recurrence.
“It does worry you; once you’ve had one removed, you constantly worry about the possibility of cancer in the other,” said Michaud.
The daughter, wife, mother, sister, aunt and grandmother’s selection for the first profile was not only based on her courage facing cancer, but also on her efforts afterward as an advocate and champion for others. She has launched a one-woman campaign with her own family to be vigilant about their health.
Among Michaud’s parents, her 11 siblings and many nieces and nephews, there have been nine cases of breast cancer, three cases of colon cancer, one of prostate cancer, one of cervical cancer, one of brain cancer, one of throat cancer and one case of skin cancer. Michaud checks up on all of them and encourages routine screenings.
“Her advocacy has undoubtedly saved lives,” said Brenda Baker, manager of TAMC’s Aroostook Cancer Care. “Our team encourages early detection as key to help fight cancer. Rosa Michaud is a four-star general in that battle.”
Vi Belanger, Michaud’s youngest child, spoke at the Oct. 3 ceremony on behalf of the family.
“Mom’s story is that of so many people … some that have won the battle and some that haven’t, but yet also found that they are just as courageous,” said Belanger. “On behalf of my Mom and from the rest of our family, we’re truly grateful and honored for this dedication in Mom’s name. Mom fought her battle and won, and I’m so very proud of her and so grateful that she is indeed here with us to be able to see this day.
“Mom’s wishes in this process of telling her story have been that she has hoped that maybe it will help someone else remember to have their regular screenings … get their mammogram and take care of themselves … know what their status is and to stay healthy,” she said. “The important role of education and awareness is so very vital. Today is about hope.”
In addition to being the first honoree to have her profile featured in the hall, Michaud’s story also was told in a special first-of-its-kind pink section of the Oct. 3 edition of Aroostook County weekly publications — The Star-Herald, Aroostook Republican, Houlton Pioneer Times and Fiddlehead Focus — in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Survivors of various types of cancer will be featured, once monthly, in the four publications. Large prints of the survivor stories and their photos will be hung monthly in the County Cancer Hall of Courage and the frame holding the photos will be painted the color recognized as representative of the form of cancer the survivor beat.
In addition, it was announced that Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent and Houlton Regional Hospital in southern Aroostook will prominently display identical large print profiles of the cancer survivors from their respective regions at their hospitals.
Moving forward, TAMC plans to add to the County Cancer Hall of Courage a section dedicated to honoring those who valiantly fought the battle with the disease but did not make it. A section in memory of County residents who passed away from cancer is expected to be introduced at a celebration honoring the 12 survivors after they have been featured over the next year.
A form to help guide residents in submitting cancer survivor stories is available on the TAMC website — www.tamc.org — as well as on the websites of each of the four partner papers. Printed forms or more information on the County Cancer Hall of Courage also can be obtained by calling TAMC’s Aroostook Cancer Care at 768-4151.