FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Amid all the distractions that come with an election cycle, it’s easy to forget October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Two Arkansas families haven’t forgotten despite being right in the middle of state politics.
For State Sen. Lance Eads (R) and his wife Kim Eads, that awareness doesn’t go away regardless of the month.
“It was November of 2018 when I received a diagnosis of breast cancer,” Kim Eads said.
A routine mammogram revealed a spot. After an MRI and biopsy, doctors confirmed what it was.
“I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction,” Kim Eads said.
This August, State Sen. Bob Ballinger (R) and his wife Jessica Ballinger were on a beach trip when they realized something was wrong.
“I actually just found a lump while we were in Florida on vacation, so it was odd,” Jessica Ballinger said. “I’d had a mammogram the year before and it wasn’t there.”
As one might expect, it’s not easy to tell kids their mother has breast cancer. The American Cancer Society reported this type of cancer, which predominantly affects women but can also occur in men, will kill more than 40,000 women this year.
“[Our two daughters] were scared,” Kim Eads said. “They didn’t know what to expect.”
Jessica Ballinger said her children thought it was a joke before truly understanding the reality, and it’s been a situation that’s brought the whole family together.
“The kids are so wonderful, and it’s bonded them more,” Jessica Ballinger said. “They’re so helpful with the younger ones.”
In both cases, doctors found the breast cancer early, so it didn’t spread to other parts of their bodies. The American Cancer Society reported early detection means an almost 100% chance of survival.
Along with a series of therapies treatments post-diagnosis, both women said support is key.
“We had a wonderful support group: friends, family from church and school and just our community that surrounded us,” Kim Eads said.
Jessica Ballinger said putting on a brave face and living life to the fullest has been a comfort.
“I’ve gotta make the decision to just be happy, not get down and encourage other people,” Jessica Ballinger said.
Even in the cut-throat world of state politics, the state senators said they gained a new perspective on what’s truly important in life.
“I still have constituents who have needs and issues, and I still have to work on that,” Bob Ballinger said. “Some of the more policy fights down in Little Rock, they just don’t seem quite as important right now.”
Lance Eads said priorities change when health is compared to the importance of political issues.
“They are important, but when you’re talking about the loss of a friend, colleague, family member, that’s just a whole different level,” Lance Eads said.
The Eads and Ballinger families said Arkansans shouldn’t just make voting a part of their routine this year.
“Get in [for a mammogram],” Jessica Ballinger said. “Just make sure you’re okay.”
Simply getting a screening could save a life.
“Every year, go get your checkups,” Kim Eads said. “It’s so important.”