Autumn in Montana ushers in an array of red, gold, and yellow colors, but another one is now added; that of pink.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and people can be seen wearing pink ribbons, or in the case of the Clark Fork Mountain Cats, pink uniforms. The Montana High School Association-approved uniforms are used to bring awareness to game spectators and teams for breast cancer awareness and on Oct. 8, the Lady Cats did just that. But the team went one step further and used the opportunity to raise money for someone with breast cancer.
“The team selected a team member, Taylor Haskins’ aunt, who had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Toni Labbe, head volleyball coach.
The goal was to raise $1,000 through bake sales and a silent auction to help with the family’s medical expenses.
Being diagnosed was a complete surprise to Judi Haskins, who lives in Bozeman with her husband and three daughters. Judi, whose maiden name is Beckendorf, was born and raised in Plains. She graduated from Plains High School in 1991. Her husband, Ryan Haskins, graduated from Superior High School in 1994. They now work at Montana State University where Judi has worked in Student Affairs for 15 years while Ryan is the director of the Aviation Program.
“It was just a routine exam and they found a three-inch mass,” said Judi, who is 45.
Doctors recommend women get mammograms when they turn 40 and another one at age 45.
Judi had one done when she turned 40, which showed no signs of cancer.
“Needless to say, I was shocked,” she said. The cancer was stage-3 invasive lobular carcinoma. “It’s fairly common and it’s a random type of cancer. I don’t carry a family gene for breast cancer and it’s also a type of cancer that can show up later in life.”
Judi was diagnosed on July 29, 2018, and within six weeks she had a double-mastectomy. Doctors also removed lymph nodes in her underarm and left arm because the cancer had spread. Had she not had the exam at age 45, it would have moved into a stage-4 cancer and metastasized into other parts of her body.
Early in October, she started chemotherapy and then she’ll go through radiation treatments. The chemo will kill any lingering cancer cells and radiation will zap the area where the cancer began. If all goes well, Judi should have a clean bill of health within a year.
For now, she feels tired and hopes she doesn’t get too nauseous from the treatments, “but every body responds differently,” she said.
A big challenge is to try and keep up with her two-year old daughter, Finley. The couple also have two other daughters, Shelby who is 9 and Avery, 5. They love the outdoors and often hike, boat and camp as a family, “we try to get out as much as possible,” Judi said.
“Don’t delay getting your mammogram,” she warns other women. “We tend to get busy with parenting and work and don’t always take care of ourselves. Put those things aside and get it done. In another year, things would have been so much worse. Thankfully, I followed by doctors advise. When you turn 40, and 45, get a mammogram. It could save your life.”
Doctors recommend clinical breast exams every one to three years starting at age 20 and every year starting at age 40. They also recommend more frequent exams if there is a strong family history of breast cancer.
In Montana, there were an estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer diagnosed in 2017. The five-year survival rate for women with stage 0 or stage 1 breast cancer is close to 100 percent. That statistic drops to 93 percent for stage 2, and 72 percent for stage 3, according to the American Cancer Society.