Kristi Pease was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, and she does not want anyone else to go through what she did.
She founded the nonprofit Kristi’s Klimbers, which is hosting free mammogram screenings for uninsured or underinsured women Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Peoria Community Center. The organization provides resources to breast cancer patients, breast cancer survivors and others who need support.
“I was a head of executive corporate role for Hopkins Health Care for about 35 years and was really busy traveling all over the world and was a single mom,” she said. “I let about three years go by before I got a mammogram. I was fit and healthy, so I didn’t really think that much about it.”
She was casually chatting with co-workers one day and mentioned a lump she had found. Pease said one of her co-workers was adamant about getting it checked out and told her to go to the on-site mammogram screening they were having at the office.
“I scheduled an appointment, and it was nice because it was convenient,” Pease said. “It came right to my office. I had the mammogram there at work, at the mobile site, and a malignancy was found, and very quickly I found out it was cancerous.”
She had two surgeries and went through several rounds of chemotherapy. Pease has now been cancer free for over five years, but the experience changed her. She left the corporate world and started Kristi’s Klimbers to help educate women about breast cancer and provide resources to those in need.
At first, the organization focused on “feel-good” stuff, Pease said. It provides mastectomy bras, head coverings, radiation robes, other giveaways, and even organizes events like makeup classes and get-togethers. However, after seeing how COVID-19 resulted in many women postponing their screenings or skipping routine wellness checks, Pease wanted to do more. She partnered with Mobile On-Site Mammography and, thanks to grants from local businesses, has made mammograms more accessible.
“The initiative was to make breast cancer screenings convenient and accessible for women,” said Catherine Midgette, executive director of On-Site Mammography at SimonMed. “If they’re at a corporate site or if they work from home, we do a lot of community events that they can participate in. We found that if women can go right outside where they’re working, they can have their mammogram in 15 minutes, and that 15 minutes can save their life.”
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, it is estimated that 281,550 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and 49,290 women will have noninvasive breast cancer this year. With advancements in technology and medicine, the number of deaths from breast cancer has dropped significantly, but it is still the No. 2 cause of death for women in the United States, after lung cancer. Early detection of breast cancer means more treatment options and a much higher survival rate.
“I’ve lost a couple friends or colleagues since then who had the same thing. They think it’s a matter of time, and they were busy,” Pease said.
“Unfortunately, theirs was much more aggressive, so they didn’t make it. I just really want to be an advocate for early detection, based on my experience,” Pease said.
“Yes, it can happen to you. I’ve always been physically fit. I’m an active hiker. That’s where Kristi’s Klimbers has come from. I don’t really have a family history. I always thought it was other people that would get it. But yes, it can happen to you. You need to make the time to get these screenings.”
The American Cancer Society recommends mammograms starting at age 40, and repeating in either one or two years. Midgette said even though the mammograms are done on-site, it will be much like a doctor’s office. Paperwork and insurance information will be collected before sending the patient to change into a gown. They will explain the procedure, and the screening is quick. Results will be confidentially sent to the patient’s home address, and a radiology report will be sent to the primary care or referring physician for follow-up.
To schedule an appointment, please call 480-967-3767 or 1-800-285-0272. Bring insurance card, doctor’s name and address as well as the location of prior mammogram films if possible. Most major insurances are accepted, but those without insurance will pay $0.
WHEN: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 6
WHERE: Peoria Community Center, 8335 W. Jefferson Street, Peoria