When Mindy Branaman saw a flyer for Access to Breast Care for West Texas in the Concho Valley (ABC4WT-CV), she picked it up out of curiosity. She didn’t know then that she would soon be diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare form of the disease with a low survival rate.

“Inflammatory breast cancer is so rare. It’s not your typical breast cancer,” said Branaman. “I was told I had six months to live. When I heard the diagnosis, I just felt numb.”

Using the information on the flyer she’d picked up months before, Branaman contacted ABC4WT-CV, a program under the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health that helps link West Texas women to available resources for mammograms, breast exams, transportation and other assistance. In addition, the program can pay for mammography and breast cancer diagnostic testing for women who qualify.

“They were a lifesaver to me,” remembered Branaman. “After my diagnosis, there were so many things to think about, so many decisions to make. They got me in to see the doctor right away. They arranged my appointments. They helped me with the finances.

“They were a godsend.”

Many women in the Concho Valley, like Branaman, fall into the “donut hole”—that is, their income disqualifies them from other available aid programs, but they are uninsured or underinsured and need financial assistance to afford breast cancer screening.

ABC4WT-CV exists to cover this gap. For example, under the program a family of four can have an income of up to $92,200 and still qualify for financial assistance for mammograms and other breast health services. In the two and a half years since the grant funded program began, 787 women have received mammograms, and 16 have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

For Shayla Grelle, Program and Clinical Manager of ABC4WT-CV, stories like Branaman’s are why she devotes her time and energy to the program—especially during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“I told my husband to get ready because I’m going to be MIA during October,” said Grelle. “We’re out every weekend, most evenings, some Sundays. But you know what? It’s worth it. This is our work, helping these women.

“Think about it: seventeen breast cancer diagnoses out of 773 women. What are those odds?”

According to Branaman, the Laura W. Bush Institute for Women’s Health and ABC4WT-CV were invaluable to her and her family during one of the most difficult times of her life.

“It makes you have a new outlook on humanity,” she said. “The Laura Bush Institute has not asked me for one thing in return, other than to share my story so other women can receive help.”

Eight months ago, Branaman was told she had six months to live. Today, she is in complete remission, and has words of encouragement for other women who may be facing a diagnosis of breast cancer.

“Don’t give up.” she said. “Don’t feel like this is a death sentence.

“You can have the deadliest type of cancer, and God is right there with you.”

To find out if you or a loved one are eligible for assistance from ABC4WT-CV, call (325) 942-2531 or visit http://www.abc4wt.org for more information.