Local Cancer Survivor Stresses Importance of Early Detection

PANAMA CITY - A local cancer survivor is encouraging people in the community to get their annual screenings.

Rhonda Hart was one of dozens that participated in this year's Panama City Relay For Life. She's an administrative assistant with the Bay County Sheriff's Office and has been cancer free for 16 years.

She says her daughter pushed her to get a mammogram when she turned 41 years old.

"I, of course, didn't think I needed it at the time. So to make her hush and quit bugging me, I went ahead and had it done and it was the first mammogram I'd ever have done in my life and fortunately I did. They found cancer," said Hart.

Hart's doctors found a lump about the size of a dime in her right breast. It's a lump she didn't even feel during her monthly self-checkups.

When Hart learned she had breast cancer, she elected to remove one of her breasts and go through chemotherapy, but it wasn't without some emotional pain.

She says the Sheriff's Office staff and her daughter supported her throughout

"This is my family and they have supported me through everything. No matter what has gone on in my life, this is my family. They're closer than my own family, other than my daughter being here. This is my family," said Hart.

Hart has participated in Panama City's Relay For Life for several years. She's now helping other women in the area who are coping with breast cancer, helping them through the psychological and emotional struggles that come with falling hair and loss of certain feminine features.

Hart was just one of many cancer survivors Friday night who stressed the importance of early detection. If you'd like to participate in a local relay for life event, you can find that information at http://www.relayforlife.org/getinvolved/findanevent/app/findanevent.aspx.