Mary LaFrance, conference organizer, hopes to raise awareness

Breast cancer survivor wants to ‘pay it forward’

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Mary LaFrance

Eight years ago Mary LaFrance’s life changed forever when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and other survivors will share their knowledge and experiences during a conference on Saturday.

The breast cancer awareness event will be held from 9 to 11 a.m., at Bethel Community Church, 1438 ‘B’ St., in Washougal.

“It seems to be the perfect time,” said LaFrance, the organizer. “It’s time to do something to educate our local women here.”

The event will begin with a PowerPoint presentation, followed by a survivor panel discussion. Audience members will have the opportunities to ask questions. There will also be a variety of handouts printed in English, Spanish and Russian.

“There will be lots of information,” she said.

Donations will be accepted for the Komen Foundation for the Cure, to help low-income women in the Camas-Washougal area pay for mammograms. Those who contribute $10 or more will receive a CD copy of LaFrance’s 2009 album “Leap of Faith,” which includes eight songs she wrote herself.

LaFrance, a secretary at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School, was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. She underwent two surgeries, 18 months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation. She had a double mastectomy in May 2011, when doctors found cells that had the potential of becoming cancerous.

“I just didn’t want to run that risk of it maybe coming back,” she said. “I needed to do what I could to protect my life, so that I would still be able to do things with my husband and daughter.”

LaFrance, now in remission, said organizing the conference is a way to give back, and help others to learn about and understand the disease. She said many people are surprised to find out that Washington and Oregon rank number 1 and 2 for breast cancer diagnosis.

“I want my friends and family to have the best of the best,” she said. “I at least want them to be aware of what is out there. It’s just a good way to pay it forward.”

Next month, LaFrance will “pay it forward” again when she has her head shaved to benefit the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds medical research related to childhood cancers.

She will join Sammy Mederos, a leukemia survivor and Cape Horn-Skye third-grader, and other members of the community for the event at noon on Sunday, June 9 at Washougal High School.

LaFrance, who lost all of her hair while going through chemotherapy, said saying goodbye to her hair this time around will be a much different situation.

“This time it’s joyous,” she said. “It’s not a necessity. It’s something I’m choosing to do.

“Hair grows,” LaFrance added. “When Sammy asked me to participate, I just couldn’t say no.”