Mammograms and More

The Michelle-O-Gram nonprofit helps secure screenings, genetic testing and other resources for those at risk of breast cancer.

Cheri Futch, front left, Angela Vanryn, front right; behind, from left: Candy Homan, Stacy Carroll, Billy Carroll, Piper Newman, Lori Zirkle, Sherry Roberts, Emma Reynolds, Susie Blauser, Brenda K. Dees, Teresa Parker and Tricia Taylor

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the U.S., second only to lung cancer. For men, the average lifetime risk of getting breast cancer is about 1 in 726. One of every 40 women diagnosed with breast cancer dies, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Michelle Blauser Standridge was one of those women. The young wife and mother of two sons was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 33 in 2006. During three years of treatment, she continuously cared for others and raised awareness about the need for breast cancer screenings. She passed away in 2009. 

In 2010, Joey Wiesbaum, an RN from Standridge’s hometown of Dunnellon, founded the Michelle-O-Gram nonprofit, which is devoted to aiding those at risk of breast cancer, especially those without resources and who are frightened. 

The 501(c)(3)’s purpose is to “identify problems early on and not have to live the life Michelle had experienced dealing with breast cancer,” Michelle-O-Gram organizer Sherry Roberts says.

“Michelle’s message, while being treated for breast cancer, was to ‘get your mammogram,’” Roberts continues. “As the word spread, Michelle-O-Gram had a long list of those seeking help. As money became available, one by one they were assisted with screening mammograms.”

The organization partners with local radiology and imaging centers. Individuals seeking help can call the Michelle-O-Gram phone line at (352) 469-6006 and leave a message with their name, phone number and what their need is. One of the organization’s volunteers will reach out within a day or two. A scheduler will follow up to gather more information and to let the caller know there is a $25 co-pay, then will point the person to an imaging facility in their area.

“Michelle-O-Gram serves clients in six Central Florida counties and allows them to schedule their appointment as they know their schedule, transportation, or childcare situation,” Roberts notes. “Once scheduled, they are asked to reply [to us] with the date and time so they are on our schedule at the facility.”

The nonprofit helps provide screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms with ultrasound, breast MRIs, breast cyst aspiration, breast biopsies, device placement after biopsy, pathology testing of specimens and genetic testing. 

“Michelle-O-Gram is now involved with genetic testing at HCA Florida Ocala Imaging Center,” Roberts explains. “Michelle and many in her family have been diagnosed as BRCA gene carriers, which predisposes them to breast and uterine cancer at an early age.”

Piper Newman, Sherry Roberts and Emma Reynolds

The gene affects men and women and many of Standridge’s family members died early in life due to the BRCA gene without understanding why they were predisposed to cancer. 

“Those clients calling for assistance and speaking of strong family histories of breast and uterine cancer are referred for genetic testing,” Roberts states. 

Many of the individuals served by the nonprofit are unable to afford testing on their own, oftentimes not having insurance. 

“Women tend to take care of everyone else and often neglect themselves,” says scheduler Kari Dollar. “They call when they have nowhere to turn. They are often emotional, financially stressed and very concerned about what breast cancer could mean in their lives. A diagnosis of breast cancer affects the whole family, not just the woman.”

“We have a nurse practitioner, Shannon Kratzberg, who is willing to write orders for those without a doctor’s order for a screening mammogram,” Roberts notes. “Women can get a screening mammogram without a doctor’s order; however, we learned when they need additional testing, we need to have someone who can respond and convey that message.”

Michelle-O-Gram has a team of dedicated volunteers. The nonprofit pays no staff and has no office. Donations help with securing supplies, such as paper and stamps.

The nonprofit does not do fundraising, but organizations often host events, with the proceeds to benefit Michelle-O-Gram. Once such group is the Bunco Babes. Their next event will be in September at the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion.  

“Typically, family and friends come together to work fundraising events that support Michelle-O-Gram,” Roberts shares. 

“The most rewarding part of working with Michelle-O-Gram,” says volunteer Cheri Futch, “is that we are given the opportunity to help someone get a screening or diagnostic mammogram that they would not have been able to because they had no insurance or a huge deductible. We are very fortunate, too, to have a community that feels the same way we do, and they want to donate, so we are able to keep the Michelle-O-Gram going.”

“Nearly 14 years later, Michelle would have never imagined her message to others as the Michelle-O-Gram has served well over 3,000 clients in our six-county area,” Roberts says. OS

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