By Jennifer L. Warren
NEWBURGH – Vanessa Edwards was proudly sporting vibrant pink last Tuesday afternoon. Whether it was her wavy locks of hair, tee-shirt or fluffy, feathery shawl, the symbolic monthly color adorned the City of Newburgh resident.
Another thing the nine year breast cancer survivor was wearing was a magnetic, broad smile, one that widened even further as she stepped off of the large Cornerstone Van parked on Lower Broadway, near the vacant lot outside of the Department of Motor Vehicles in the City of Newburgh. That elation was rooted in a free-of-charge, thorough, 15 minute breast cancer exam Edwards had just received. It was time well spent.
“The Cornerstone doctors were very kind, caring and professional during the entire screening; they answered all of my questions and really put me at ease,” Edwards said about the exam. “Early detection for breast cancer- any cancer- is life-saving, and everyone should get this done at the appropriate age; I’m so lucky because having it again- here- today was so convenient and easy.”
It’s that very “accessibility” piece that spurned the creation of an event, allowing for Edwards,’ along with 19 other women’s, exams at the first annual Free Breast Cancer Screening Day, held right alongside the weekly Healthy Orange Farmer’s Market, which wrapped up its season, yesterday, October 31; however, will return in July, 2024. After some lengthy discussions incited by a rising number of cancer diagnoses in the area, The Orange County Department of Health (OCDH), led by Meg Oakes, Health and Wellness Program Coordinator as well as a major contributor to overseeing the operation of the Healthy Orange Farmer’s Market, connected with personnel from sponsor, Cornerstone Family Heathcare. They were soon provided further assistance by another pivotal sponsor, The Cathedral at the House on Broadway, leading to the formation of the integrally needed event.
The well- attended four hour venue, further assisted by Touro College, the American Cancer Society, and True Care, provided visitors with the conveniently located, nearby Farmers Market to purchase fresh produce and other healthy items. The health-focused, prioritized morning and day not only included screenings conducted by two Cornerstone doctors, but also detailed, priceless information, aimed at raising awareness of all cancers and access to information on screening locales, provided by the OCDH booth. An added incentive to be screened was also available: Vouchers to exchange for free fruits and vegetables at the Market.
“Orange County is experiencing very high breast cancer rates, so by partnering with Cornerstone Family Health Mobile Van, 20 women were able to receive a breast exam for free today,” said Ava Marisch, a Community Outreach Worker for OCDH. “Events like this are so important to help bring awareness and educate the public on why receiving cancer screenings is so vital; it can help save a life and aid early detection.”
Bishop Jeffrey Woody of the Cathedral at the House, who like Marisch, was “boots on the ground,” hands-on interacting with the community Tuesday, handing out an assortment of needed items, has witnessed that cancer spike first-hand in his over two decades of church duties.
“After being a pastor for 22 years, I have seen so many members of my churches experience cancer, so we are always trying to provide resources to help them get through their processes, which is why we partnered in today’s event,” explained Woody as he surveyed the long line extending outside of the Cornerstone Van. “Just look at those lines over there; there is definitely a positive response.”
That powerful scene, assisted by the many visitors who were flooding the OCDH booth, gathering up cancer information while asking questions to OCDH employees on site, just might have saved a life or even several. It’s also a gesture that fueled Edward’s smile, not to mention brimming gratitude, on lower Broadway Tuesday.
“This was just such an amazing offering; you knew you would be seen and taken care of as well as get an immediate referral if needed,” said Edwards. “People should not be afraid to get this exam; it literally saved my life nine years ago because it was caught very early, and I couldn’t be more grateful that services like this exist.”