A busy lifestyle of work and family-care can sometimes push your other responsibilities aside.
Melissa Summer of Aiken Regional Medical Centers was no exception.
When she finally did visit her doctor for a checkup, he told her something she never imagined.
“I knew I had been feeling really tired, putting it off as working too much. I expected for my doctor to tell me I had to get more rest or that my cholesterol was too high,” Summer remembered. “After a few tests, I was diagnosed with myeloma – a bone marrow cancer.”
That was spring of 2012.
“I spent the rest of the year in treatment and had a bone-marrow transplant in November 2012,” Summer said.
She is now cancer-free and is a spokesperson for the Aiken Regional’s program Women Enlightened.
“Women tend to take care of everyone else except themselves,” Summer said. “The program was designed to help the modern woman take better care of herself.”
It began in January 2012.
Since then, the organization has “provided a host of educational information, events and programs for our members” as well as has “raised thousands of dollars for area organizations such as the Aiken Best Chance Network, which provides mammograms and cervical screenings to women who qualify, and The Savannah River Cancer Foundation.”
Members are referred to as the Women Enlightened Sisterhood, Summer said.
Aiken Regional Medical Centers is part of Universal Health Services.
As of this year, the Women Enlightened program has expanded to at least four other Universal Health Services hospitals in areas like California, Florida and Nevada, according to Summer..
Another spokesperson for the program is award-winning performer Olivia Newton John.
John, the Australian singer who co-starred in the 1978 musical film “Grease,” was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992.
“She underwent a partial mastectomy and breast reconstruction and has been cancer-free for more than two decades,” according to her biography.
But her struggle with breast cancer has continued to impact her daily life.
John oversees the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre at Australia’s Austin Hospital, and her CD “Gaia – One Woman’s Journey” “journaled her journey through cancer,” she told Las Vegas’ FOX5 News.
She was in Las Vegas to help launch the Women Enlightened program at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center.
“We are hoping the program will be adopted at all Universal Health Services acute-care facilities,” Summer said.
As part of the program, “our nurse navigators are always available to help members by answering health concerns, helping them to establish a physician or make health appointments for them,” Summer said.
During the new member orientation, “you will meet our Women’s Health nurse navigators, receive a full explanation of the program’s benefits, learn about the LIV self-breast exam aid and more,” according to Aiken Regional’s website.
The LIV self-breast exam is a creation of John’s.
“The Women Enlightenment program stresses prevention through free health screenings and by providing every member with a LIV breast self-exam aid. The LIV is a simple yet extremely valuable tool in your personal defense against breast cancer. You’ll learn to use it monthly to perform a correct breast self-exam,” John explains during the program’s orientation video.
This aid “magnifies your touch 10 times,” John said to FOX5 News. “So if there are lumps in your breast. you’ll be able to find them more easily.”
“John is involved with our program because she was impressed that Aiken Regional is providing the LIV self-breast exam aid free of charge to our members,” Summer said. “We hope to have her here next year.”
Since the start of the program, around 2,000 women have joined the “Sisterhood,” Summer said.
“A great deal of planning went into the development of this program, We wanted it to be effective and truly help area women get and stay healthy. And we are seeing that it is,” Summer added. “The women encourage each other to make and keep their appointments – not postponing them because their schedules are too busy.”
Aiken Regional is at 302 University Parkway.
For more information on the Women Enlightenment program, call 803-641-5000 or visit www.aikenregional.com/hospital-services/we-women-enlightened-for-better-health.
Stephanie Turner graduated from Valdosta State University in 2012. She then signed on with the Aiken Standard, where she is now the arts and entertainment reporter.