ELLSWORTH — Women: check your breasts and trust your gut.
That’s the message Barbara Courchesne, owner of the Bud Connection, would like to impart with her new initiative, Bud for Boobs. For every reusable vase or basket that customers bring in, the shop will make a donation to the mammography scholarship fund at Northern Light Maine Coast Hospital.
The cause is personal for Courchesne, 50, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year and recently underwent a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
“Early detection has saved my life certainly, so I think it’s important to advocate for that for other people,” she said last Thursday, while taking a break from arranging 44 table centerpieces for the Chefs’ Gala.
The gala, which was held Saturday night at the Ramada in Ellsworth, raises money for breast care services at Maine Coast, including mammogram scholarships for those who lack health insurance or have high-deductible plans.
To launch Bud for Boobs, Courchesne donated flowers for the event and gave out compact mirrors emblazoned with a message reminding women to get their mammograms.
The bouquets featured orange tulips, purple cremone, carnations (“in cool colors though”), spray roses and succulents topped off with twinkle lights. Each was a little different and in keeping with the gala’s neighborhood block party theme.
The gala is a great party, but it’s important to remember its greater purpose, Courchesne said.
Last spring, a routine mammogram revealed calcium deposits in her breast. The Trenton resident said her radiologist initially was not concerned, but Courchesne opted to have them removed anyway. When the calcifications were removed, cancerous cells were found.
“A small little nugget, I call it,” she said. “I don’t even think I’d have been able to feel it [by self-exam].”
The cancer was early stage and she chose more aggressive treatment than is typically recommended for her situation. The double mastectomy offered a degree of peace of mind and meant she wouldn’t need to take cancer-suppressing drugs for years.
Courchesne said it’s important for people to listen to their bodies, educate themselves and advocate for the treatment they feel is best.
She had her mastectomy this past Halloween and reconstruction surgery after the Valentine’s Day rush at the shop. She’ll have another surgery post-wedding season just to “tweak things.”
Bud for Boobs is a “win-win-win,” says Courchesne.
Customers get to recycle unwanted vases, the shop gets vessels for flower arrangements, women in need get mammograms and — she hopes — more women will be reminded that they need them.
“Bud for Boobs is just a funny little, quirky name, but hopefully it’ll remind people,” she said.
The American Cancer Society on its website recommends annual mammograms for women ages 45 to 54. Women ages 55 and up may switch to biennial exams or continue having a yearly mammogram. Woman ages 40 to 44 “should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening.”
All women should be aware of how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to their medical providers immediately, according to the guidelines. Women with a family history of cancer, a genetic tendency or other factors may need additional testing.