ARLINGTON, Va. (WUSA) -- Marlene Alvarez is a breast cancer survivor who works and volunteers at the Arlington Free Clinic. She credits the clinic for saving her life.
"I felt a lump under my arm. I didn't know I had to check under my arm," Marlene says.
She was in a breast health class at the clinic when she found her stage 3 breast cancer. She was diagnosed in 2003 and is now in remission and feeling great. Choosing to give back, she spends her time sharing her journey with other women and teaches her own class to help build awareness about breast health and early detection.
Marlene says every woman needs to "be responsible for your annual mammogram which is the key word in my class and the other one is be responsible for you self examination."
These classes are available because of a Komen grant. The Arlington Free Clinic provides medical care to many uninsured women and men in the county, but it can't reach everyone. This grant is helping the clinic expand its breast health mission even further into the community.
Martha Ware is the nursing manager for women's health at the clinic and says, "We now have a 5th clinic that we have opened up to people that don't get into our lottery or perhaps they are not our patients.
"Our goal is for every woman who is 40 years or older that lives in Arlington that is low income, that doesn't have insurance, we want them all to get mammograms every year."
Martha also says the women in this program receive more than just a mammogram. All women attend the class and receive a full breast health exam with one of the volunteer medical staff before their screening. Also, if any tests are abnormal, the clinic takes care of their follow up needs.
Many of the breast cancer survivors at the clinic, including Marlene and Aregash Demoz, say they can't thank the people and the breast health classes enough. They know how much they help improve their overall care both physically and emotionally.
"They take care of me good. They take care of me perfect. I tell them thank you," says Aregash.
The grant has also provided funds to hire someone to help with community outreach. The clinic is getting its message out to churches and other community organizations.