Bonding Over Bingo and Mammograms

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A steady stream of numbers rang out: O-68, I-27, G-52, G-57, I-17. Two women conferred over their cards, but their conversation was interrupted by a thunderous “BINGO!”

“I better get bingo before my name is called,” one woman joked. You’d never know it, but she was waiting for her name to be called for her annual mammogram.

Even the most ardent health advocate wouldn’t describe a mammogram as particularly fun. Yet, since 1991, the Howard J. Weston Community and Senior Center has organized a trip to the ChristianaCare Breast Center to make it just that — fun.

Over the last 30 years, hundreds of women have participated in the annual event that includes bingo, goodie bags, lunch, and, yes, mammograms. It has become a tradition, an important one that provides essential access to health care.

Teresa Wilde and Nora Katurakes, MSN, RN, OCN, of Community Health Outreach and Education, are helping people get the important cancer screenings they need. “For those who have delayed personal care or screenings because of COVID-19, it’s important to get back on schedule,” Katurakes said.

Recent Weston trips have been organized by Teresa Wilde, an outreach assistant with the ChristianaCare Community Health Outreach and Education Program.

“Most of the ladies say that they wouldn’t get their mammograms otherwise,” Wilde said.

Click here or call 302-623-4200, option #1 to schedule a mammogram at ChristianaCare.

Wilde and other members of the Outreach team help with scheduling, paperwork and coordinating with programs like Screening for Life, which assists qualified individuals with the cost of cancer screenings.

This year, 25 women took part in the cancer screening event on Nov. 30. Many wore their pink shirts and pink ribbon earrings to the Breast Center, located in ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

“Not many people say they look forward to their mammogram. It’s usually, ‘Oh, I have to go do that.’ But not for these ladies. It really is something we all enjoy because we do it together,” said Vicki Sheraton, director of the Weston Senior Center in New Castle.

“It’s been a great relationship with ChristianaCare — they have been so willing to help us care of our seniors.”

Shannon Hostetter and Kelly Nahodil of the Breast Center support Paula Mae Holley before her mammogram. “If it wasn’t for this group, I wouldn’t be doing it. I don’t like doing something like this on my own,” said Holley, who has been getting her mammogram with the Weston Senior Center women for 13 years.

“It’s been a great relationship with ChristianaCare — they have been so willing to help us care of our seniors.”

The help can be life-saving. Nearly half of all breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women over age 65, according to the National Institutes of Health. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some women put off their annual cancer screenings. Last year, the Weston group chartered a bus and waited in the parking lot for their mammogram appointments.

Now is the time to come back for preventive care like mammograms. “We are here to help make sure that happens.”

—Nora Katurakes, MSN, RN, OCN

Now is the time to come back for preventive care like mammograms, said Nora Katurakes, MSN, RN, OCN, manager of Community Health Outreach and Education.

“For those who have delayed personal care or screenings because of COVID-19, it’s important to get back on schedule. We are here to help make sure that happens.”

For Paula Mae Holley, who has been making the trip for over a decade, being with friends helps keep her calm during what can be a stressful event. This year, she also had the chance to catch up with people she hasn’t seen because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If it wasn’t for this group, I wouldn’t be doing it. I don’t like doing something like this on my own,” Holley said.

As they waited their turn in a conference room large enough off to keep everyone socially distanced, the Weston Center women kept their eyes pasted on their pull-tab bingo cards. They gave hearty “hellos” and cheerful waves as their friends arrived.

“I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t do this. The view is pretty. The food is good, and it’s good to be around people you know,” said Lucretia Chandler, who made her second trip with the Weston group.

Sandra Krett, executive director of the Weston Center, partnered with ChristianaCare to hold the annual screening event after hearing from members who said they were nervous about getting their mammograms. Sheraton said just about every year, at least one woman has to return for additional screening or services.

“We feel if we can save one life a year, absolutely, this event is worth it,” Sheraton said.

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