Home > Gladys Hunt-Mason, Cancer Survivor Using Her Voice to Encourage Women to Get Their Mammograms

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PUM One on One: Gladys Hunt-Mason Cancer Survivor Using Her Voice to Encourage Women to Get Their Mammograms
Gladys Hunt-Mason, a retired television news producer and assignments editor, was employed by WTAE-TV for 25 years.  As a breast cancer survivor, Gladys and Channel 4 became involved with Race for the Cure and is a life member of the National Council Jewish Women Pittsburgh Section, organizers of the annual event. As a five-year survivor, Gladys achieved her “15 minutes of fame” as Ms. April in the 1998 Soul Survivor Calendar. 
Gladys has served on the Advisory Board of the McKeesport Salvation Army Corps for more than 30 years and is a member of the McKeesport Area Ministerium.  She is a member and active volunteer with the McKeesport Regional History and Heritage Center and volunteers as collections manager as well as public relations for the McKeesport International Village. Gladys is an administrator for the Charles F. Peters Foundation and is on the advisory board of the McKeesport Community Fund. 
She has served on two commissions for the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh; the Commission for Biblical Literacy and the Commission for Racial Harmony.  As part of a certified team conducting anti-racism workshops for clergy and lay leaders in the diocese, Gladys produced a video used in conjunction with the training entitled “Breaking down the Walls”.
She is a member of the Anglican Church of Incarnation in the Strip District where she serves on the vestry, is a member of the choir, serves as a chalice bearer and is part of the prayer team. Gladys is the wife of Gordon M. Mason, Jr a retired contractor.  They are the proud parents of Susan Lynne, a senior project manager with Allscripts. (Photo by photographer: Ahmad Sandidge) 
A Billboard sponsored by ACBC (Allegheny Breast Consortium) featuring Gladys is up throughout the month of June reminding women to get their mammograms, especially African American women in the area of McKeesport. 
PUM: Tell us more about your thoughts to being selected for a billboard that will go up in McKeesport, representing you as a cancer survivor that is recommending women get a mammogram.

Gladys: Initially I was more than a little reluctant when approached about doing this, but then I realized this is one way of adding my voice to the message for breast cancer awareness.  I am honored and humbled to be given this responsibility.

PUM: Your life as a cancer survivor, tell us more about your experience, when were you diagnosed and your current medical status. 

Gladys: Following a biopsy, I learned that I had stage 4 breast cancer.  The next six months, during medical leave, included bilateral mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.  Through all of this, I was blessed with overwhelming support from my family, co-workers and my church family and friends. This past fall, after 26 years I again heard those dreaded words.  At this time, my doctors are using procedures to reduce the tumor before the possibility of surgery.  I’m encouraged, my doctors are wonderful, and I have the knowledge that many people are supporting me in prayer.

PUM: There is still huge disparities within the African American community for women to get their mammograms, why is this so important?

Gladys:  When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I had an elderly aunt who would tell people that I was having health issues but she “couldn’t tell them that it was breast cancer”.  In her way of thinking, polite people just didn’t talk about those things.  Statistics clearly show that African American women tend to be diagnosed at an earlier age and are more likely to die of breast cancer than White women. In the African American community, mammograms are a must for every woman.

PUM: Did you grow up in Pittsburgh? Tell us more about your life and career in the region.

Gladys: I was born and raised in McKeesport with my younger sister and brother.  After high school, my first full time job was with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare in Pittsburgh. Several years later I was hired by the City of McKeesport to work in the City Assessor’s office.  Six years later I took maternity leave determined to return to work after the birth of my daughter.  Instead, I began taking courses at CCAC and reporting for the campus newspaper.  I earned an associate degree and transferred to Duquesne University where I graduated with a BA in Journalism.
Three months later I was hired as production assistant with WTAE-TV and retired 25 years later as a news producer.
PUM:  As a cancer survivor what is life like for you? What do you want people to know about your experiences?   
Gladys: My life has been and is still full of board and committee meetings along with my parish ministries.  What I’ve come to realize is that sometimes I find myself in situations where my revealing I am a cancer survivor is a source of comfort to others.  Years ago, I would speak before groups regarding my fight with cancer, but I’ve found that one on one conversation can be very effective.  For example, whenever there was a medical report during either local or national broadcasts regarding cancer, viewers would call the newsroom for more information and the concern in their voices would be obvious.  While looking up the information, I would quietly mention I was a cancer survivor and without exception, I could sense a calmness and relief that the information would be forthcoming.
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