Health Care

Arkadelphia educator praises Mammovan for detecting her cancer early

UAMS Mammovan returns to AHS for screenings Oct. 25

By JOEL PHELPS | The Arkadelphian

A mammogram on her lunch break was all it took to make an Arkadelphia educator believe in the importance of screening.

Though Clair Mays had no family history of cancer, her daughter-in-law, Michelle Huitt Mays, had battled breast cancer in her early 20s. Watching Michelle endure Stage 3 cancer and undergo a double mastectomy, Clair began taking breast cancer seriously. 

Clair Mays, right, is pictured with breast cancer survivor and daughter-in-law Michelle Mays. Clair said breast cancer awareness “took on a whole new meaning” for Clair when Michelle, now 31, was diagnosed just three days before her 23rd birthday. | Courtesy photo

“I am diligent to have my annual mammogram and not put it off,” said Clair, the school district’s digital communication director and instructional technology facilitator. In 2020, she spent a few minutes of her lunch break and stepped aboard the “Mammovan” parked at Arkadelphia High School for a screening. A few days later she received a call from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences about an area of concern that needed more testing.

Clair learned the week before Thanksgiving that the test results showed she had some pre-cancerous cells that needed to be removed, a procedure that happened four days after Christmas. In early January Clair learned there were some cancer cells, and the following spring she underwent radiation treatments for 16 consecutive days.

“It may seem like just another school awareness project, but this is a story that tells the difference those school projects can make.”

— Clair Mays

Now that she’s free of cancer, Clair has the Mammovan to thank for the early detection; otherwise, she likely would have endured the same hardships Michelle did. “I’m really thankful I didn’t put it off,” said Clair. “Early detection made a difference for me.”

The Mammovan was first brought to AHS in 2018 following years of promoting breast cancer awareness through other means like T-shirt sales. 

Clair Mays and Ashley Wesley pose with the UAMS Mammovan in the background. | Courtesy photo

Future Business Leaders of America advisors Ashley Wesley (AHS) and Lakesha Berry (Goza Middle School) sponsor the breast cancer awareness events. Student members sell Badger for the Cure T-shirts, which raise money donated to the Mammovan, and secure donations for the gift bags and door prizes from community partners. This year the donations tallied $1,000. Under Wesley and Berry’s leadership, FBLA was instrumental in taking the cause a step further when they invited the Mammovan to campus. 

“The thought of seeing the van in the morning in our parking lot makes me emotional just thinking about it,” said Clair. This Tuesday, when the Mammovan returns to AHS, will be no different for Clair as she reflects on the simple visit that likely saved her life. It’s a story she hopes will inspire others to have a mammogram. “Don’t put it off because you’re too busy or you’re afraid of the results,” said Clair. “And don’t put it off because you think breast cancer won’t happen to you.”

The UAMS Mammovan will be at AHS on Tuesday, Oct. 25, beginning at 9 a.m. To schedule an appointment, call 800-259-8794. Discuss any financial concerns when making an appointment. There will be door prizes and gift bags for participants.

“When we originally brought the Mammovan to Arkadelphia in 2018, I had no idea it might be my life that was being saved,” said Clair. “Thankfully, after surgery and radiation, I remain cancer free. It may seem like just another school awareness project or community project, but this is a story that tells the difference those school projects can make.”

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