In April 2021, Tanya Joanos got a clean mammogram.
Ten months later, at a routine examination, her gynecologist detected a golf-ball sized lump in her breast which turned out to be invasive ductal cell carcinoma.
“Within 10 months it had grown like that. This is why early detection is important,” she said, taking a break from the festivities at the 10th annual PinkOut at Paddy’s Raw Bar on St. George Island.
“My mammogram wasn’t due until April. If I would have skipped one, the type of cancer I have, I’d be dead,” said Joanos, interrupted by her granddaughter Ariel, who ran up to her excitedly to describe in detail what was happening with her balloon.
Joanos had just turned 43 when she was diagnosed and after medical opinions at Moffat Cancer Center Florida in Tampa, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, she had a double mastectomy at the end of April, followed by eight rounds of chemotherapy.
“Both had the same plan,” she said. “I was ready to take care of it as soon as possible.”
With statistics showing that one in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime, with about 9 percent of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States found in women younger than age 45 years of age, the need for early detection through mammograms is of paramount importance.
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of Franklin Needs, the non-parent organization of the PinkOut, Franklin County will soon have a mammogram at Weems Memorial Hospital in Apalachicola.
The hospital secured a U.S. Department of Agriculture emergency rural health grant, which they will use to purchase GE three-dimension digital mammography system, which will run about $306,000 complete with add-ons. Franklin Needs donated $137,000 to cover the match.
“They’re getting the room ready as we speak,” said Jessica Sparks, who heads the Franklin Needs committee that oversees the PinkOut.
“Before the end of the year it will be up and running,” said Weems CEO David Walker, who was on hand, together with board chairman Duffie Harrison, to accept the check.
Sparks said they expect this year’s event will set a record, eclipsing $100,000 overall, with about $70,000 coming from the night’s event alone. Running until the end of the month is an online auction at www.franklinneeds.com which includes vacation stays at eight St. George Island houses that can be had for the right bids.
A live auction at the PinkOut, conducted by auctioneer Dave Snow, who stepped in right before it started, raised $12,000, Sparks said.
“It was fantastic, it was definitely a record year,” she said.
Snow was one of eight men who took part in the drag Mr. PinkOut pageant, along with Pat Kelly, manager of Half Shell Dockside; Dave Snow, St. George Island homeowner; David Klingberg, relocated from England; Gaga; Jason Timbert, St. George Island volunteer firefighter and first responder; Bob Landiss, St. George Island resident and local real estate agent; Simon Hodgson, St. George Island volunteer firefighter and first responder; and Tim Goldstein, a turtle patrol volunteer.
Emerging victorious was Timbert, who brought in $1,251 in donations, followed by Goldstein, who prompted the collection of $1,167, and in third place, Gag, who commanded $966. All told the pageant brought in $6,165.
For Joanos, it’s a matter of taking one day at a time, in stride, with a smile on her face.
“I’m very blessed, I count my blessings every day,” said the now semi-retired schoolteacher, who taught at ABC School and Wakulla middle and high school. “I have such great support from friends and family.”
Preparing for a Nov. 1 surgery, Joanos said she draws support from others, such as friend Andrea Fortunas, who was diagnosed three years ago and is now two years cancer free.
The cancer “is going to be gone, it will be out of there,” she said. “There’s good days and there’s bad days, the chemotherapy was terrible. The bad days make you realize how good the good days are.”