Jim Thorpe woman named Carbon County's Gallery of Hope honoree
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Brenda Smellowsky of Jim Thorpe is the Gallery of Hope Honoree for Carbon County. Smellowsky serves as Lead Radiologic Technologist at Blue Mountain Health System.
A monthly self-examination, yearly mammogram, and above all else, hope.
If followed, those three pieces of advice can go a long way to help women in their fight against breast cancer.
Take it from Brenda Smellowsky, who certainly knows a thing or two about how to cope with the disease.
Smellowsky, who serves as Lead Radiologic Technologist at Blue Mountain Health System, is a breast cancer survivor.
Earlier this week, Smellowsky was recognized as Carbon County's Gallery of Hope honoree at the hospital's Palmerton campus.
The hospitals of the Blue Mountain Health System hosted the Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania's 2013 Gallery of Hope. The Gallery of Hope is a collection of photographs and personal stories from area breast cancer survivors.
The traveling display is meant to raise awareness of breast cancer and the importance of recommended screenings, such as mammograms, and making healthier choices such as eating right, exercising, and understanding health risks.
The Gallery of Hope is exhibited year-round at hospitals, diagnostic facilities, nonprofit agencies, colleges and other community-based events across Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania's 13-county service area.
Smellowsky, 61, of Jim Thorpe, said she went to have her annual mammogram in Aug. of 2008, at which time cancerous lumps were detected.
"My doctor came in and told me the bad news is you have cancer, but the good news is it's the good cancer," Smellowsky said. "I didn't have to do the chemo or radiation."
Today, four-and-a-half years later, Smellowsky said she goes for a follow-up with her oncologist on a six-month basis.
"I do it to make sure everything's all right," she said. "The only thing I had to do is take one pill a day for five years."
Smellowsky said cancer runs in her family. Her mother, the late Wilma Gehres, passed away eight years ago after her bout with breast cancer.
As a result, Smellowsky encourages all women to be vigilant about routine screenings.
"My message is that women need to give themselves a monthly breast self-examination, be sure to get their yearly mammogram, and never give up hope," she said. "There's always hope."
Throughout her diagnosis and recovery, Smellowsky said her husband, Richard, family and co-workers gave her support and strength.
"They have all been there for me," she said. "My co-workers were wonderful, they were great; even if it was just to talk to somebody."
A regular participant in Lehighton's Pink Light Walk, Smellowsky donates her time and money to efforts that raise breast cancer awareness.
Smellowsky said she feels blessed to be recognized as Carbon County's Gallery of Hope honoree.
"It's a great honor to be selected," she said. "I want to hopefully get the word out to make women aware there are many options and possibilities."
Since 2000, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania's Gallery of Hope has been sharing the stories of breast cancer survivors from throughout northeastern and north central Pennsylvania whose experiences help educate others.
Awareness, screenings, and early detection are the keys in the fight against breast cancer.