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West Valley City Journal

West Valley City Police Department shows pink pride for breast cancer awareness

Nov 13, 2018 01:51PM ● By Jana Klopsch

West Valley City Clerk Nicole Dunaway speaks on Oct. 1 kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Dunaway was 42 when she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. (Photo/Jenny Jones)

By Jenny Jones

West Valley City Clerk Nicole Dunaway was only 42 years old when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage II breast cancer. In late June of this year, Dunaway was relaxing at home when she felt a lump on one of her breasts. 

“When I felt it [the lump], it was about the size of a racquet ball,” said Dunaway. “I knew immediately I needed to get it looked at.” 

Dunaway is the 15th member of her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer. After helping her mother and aunt overcome this disease 13 years ago, Dunaway tested positive for the breast cancer gene, but failed to go to her recommended mammogram appointments. She began aggressive chemotherapy treatment and is now confident she can beat this disease. 

It was after Dunaway’s diagnosis and initial treatment that the West Valley City Police Department decided to support Breast Cancer Awareness month by partaking in the “Pink Patch Project.” Throughout the month of October, officers wore an official pink patch on their uniforms to support breast cancer research organizations and help initiate conversation among the community. 

“This has been a great thing for both my personal and professional life,” said Deputy Chief Anita Schwemmer of the West Valley City Police Department. “It shows that we care about more than just keeping the community safe.”

For Deputy Schwemmer, this hit close to home. She has two sisters whom were diagnosed with breast cancer roughly three years ago. Due to scheduled mammogram appointments and yearly check-ups, both of Schwemmer’s sisters caught the disease in its early stages and beat it. 

“It was that early detection that made all the difference,” said Schwemmer. “So, being able to support breast cancer research is very important to me.” 

Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer during its early stages, and when it is most easily treated. They can locate the cancer before it can be seen or felt—before any symptoms. 

In Utah, the rate of finding early stage breast cancer is significantly lower than the rest of the U.S. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women, second in the state of Utah. This means, roughly one in eight women in the United states will get cancer in their lifetime. On average, every two minutes someone is diagnosed, and every 13 minutes someone dies from this disease. 

“I also think this is great for police departments to take part in because as a mostly male-dominant profession, it’s good information for everyone,” said Schwemmer. “Breast cancer doesn’t just affect women.” 

Although it’s rare, men can also be victims of breast cancer. An estimated 2,470 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, claiming approximately 460 lives. 

The good news is, these death rates have been declining since 1990, in part due to better screening and early detection. Awareness campaigns like the “Pink Patch Project” are only helping researchers improve these treatment options. 

Dunaway said she could have caught the cancer sooner had she been on top of her mammogram appointments. She has nine chemo treatments left before her double mastectomy in February of next year.

“You know, I was so dumb not to go in—especially with my family history. But, I am really lucky that I caught it when I did,” Dunaway said. “Now I’m just fighting really hard to beat this.”  

West Valley City Police are raising funds by selling pink patches and T-shirts bearing the police department's logo, and they are available to anyone who would like to support the project. Patches are $5 and T-shirts are $20. All proceeds will benefit the Huntsman Cancer Institute.