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      Free mammogram saves woman's life

      A free mammogram lead to a double mastectomy, which has saved an Amarillo woman's life.

      The Texas Panhandle was awarded a $1.6 million grant for free mammogram screenings for women who qualify. Linda Knox met the criteria and went in for a free mammogram this past August. The following week, doctors met with her to tell her she had breast cancer.

      "Shocked" and caught off guard, Knox passed the news on to her six sisters, brother and her friends. But despite the possible outcomes, Knox remained in good spirits.

      "I laughed and smiled and people were saying, 'Why are you laughing and smiling so much? You have cancer.' she said. "And I said, 'I don't know. I'm happy today. I'm not going to ruin my happy day because of something that's in my body. And I trust Dr. Ramon and I trusted Dr. Pickens."

      Knox underwent a double mastectomy on Sept. 21. She currently is wearing bags that catch the drainage from her lymph nodes, and she is sore. Still, Knox remains optimistic and laughs as if nothing is wrong.

      "Surgery is painful. But it saved my life."

      She also has some advice for the women who are fighting the same fight she is.

      "Don't get so uptight about it because it makes you nervous and you won't get well as fast," she said. "Be calm, be calm about it. If you have to talk to God many times, do so. If you have to scream, do so. If you have to cry, do so."

      According to Texas Oncology Breast Nurse Navigator Jennifer Campos, the free screening program targets women who do not have the insurance to cover mammograms, but women who are covered are part of the audience they wish to spread the message of early detection to. Transportation to and from the clinic and post-surgery meals have been provided for women who are in need. Campos said Texas Oncology does anything it can to help out its patients.

      "We are here for our patients," she said. We do what we can to help them, to meet their needs so that they can continue through treatment because treatment is hard enough emotionally. And if we can help with any of those burdens, we do our best to do that."

      Campos also said more than 150 cases of breast cancer were confirmed at Texas Oncology last year. Mammograms can detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, which makes for a higher cure rate. Campos said the cure rate for early detection can be as high as 95 percent.

      Knox has a follow-up on Oct. 4. She will find out if all of the cancer has been removed and what the next step is. She said she is expecting and is prepared for chemotherapy, and she has a solution to the possibility of hair loss.

      "I've already picked out my hair," she said. "I can have long hair, short hair. I'm not worried about that."

      One might think it is impossible to be happy and optimistic right after a mastectomy, after a part of one;s womanhood has been taken away. But plastic surgery can replace what was taken away, and what was not taken away was Knox's faithful spirit.

      "Imagine the world without breast cancer."