One skipped mammogram, one terrible loss

Oct 5,2012
For years, Leslie Olving, 47, cared for her older sister who had breast cancer. Her sister died from the disease in 2003, and the experience changed Olving’s life: now she’s determined to help make a difference in other people’s lives.

“I know that early detection of breast cancer is the difference between life and death,” said Olving. “My sister skipped one year of having a mammogram and that’s when the cancer developed and spread.”

Olving moved to Philomath from the East Coast in 2011 and heard about SCREEN —  a program managed by Samaritan Health Services that helps increase awareness of the importance of early detection of breast and cervical cancer. She became one of 50 volunteers working at a grassroots level to educate others about cancer.

“From the get-go, I’ve been so impressed with SCREEN,” she said. “It’s very professional and well organized, and I feel so proud of what I’m doing.”

Olving went through a volunteer orientation to join the group of volunteers who are out in the community working to educate women about early detection. Volunteers share breast and cervical health information at local events, community activities and organizations. Olving says she enjoys being able to select the events she wants to attend and the opportunity to share her passion and knowledge with others.

“I find that most women are aware of steps they should take for early detection including mammograms and clinical breast exams with their doctors,” said Olving. “There are some women who say they don’t have the means to access screenings, and I share important information about resources with them.”

What Olving shares about getting access to low or no-cost screenings also comes from personal experience. When she first arrived in Corvallis, she was uninsured and due for cancer screenings.

“I was aware that many states have programs to access care free of charge,” said Olving. “I asked the staff at SCREEN how to get started and I went through the process to become eligible. I had mammography and clinical exams free of charge. Now I share that information with women who could use the help.”

Olving is currently a chaplain intern earning clinical pastoral education credits at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis with the goal of becoming a spiritual care counselor for hospice. She plans to continue volunteering for SCREEN.

“Working with SCREEN brings me a lot of satisfaction,” she said. “I want to make a difference by sharing the message that early detection saves lives.”

SCREEN is looking for volunteers who have a passion for women’s health, can communicate difficult topics clearly and with compassion, all while creating an open and welcoming environment for everyone. For more information about volunteering, contact Emily McNulty, SCREEN Program coordinator, at (541) 768-5470 or