OCOEE, Fla. — Some people say that not all heroes wear capes, and in Pam Bozkurt’s case, that’s true. She uses her spare time to turn wig stands made of wood, and she’s usually in jeans, a t-shirt and a face shield.

What You Need To Know

  • The cure rate for breast cancer is around 95% with early detection, according to Orlando Heath Oncologist, Dr. Nikita Shah

  •  Breast cancer can present itself in different ways, including a lump, nipple discharge, color change of the skin, or texture change

  • Dr. Shah recommends three effective methods for early detection: monthly self-exams, yearly exams by your healthcare provider, and annual mammograms

  • Breast cancer treatments can range from surgery, to chemotherapy, or radiation. Officials say the treatment depends on detection and how far aggressive the cancer is

Doctors diagnosed Bozkurt with breast cancer over 2 years ago after a routine mammogram. Although cancer runs in her family — with her sister and an aunt having similar diagnoses — the news still caught her off guard at her age.

“Many women who are diagnosed with breast cancer are younger than me,” Bozkurt said. “I was diagnosed when I was 66, so I was like, no, this can’t be me.”

She said luckily they caught it early, and it only required minimal treatment like a lumpectomy and radiation.

“They said it was good that I didn’t have to go though chemo,” Bozkurt said. “So with that, I just gave myself to the great doctors at Orlando Health.”

Just before her diagnosis, Bozkurt began learning how to turn wood. It was something that she said started as a hobby during COVID, but quickly became a passion when she realized that there were very few rules to it and that she could create something beautiful.

Despite now having to incorporate radiation into her weekly routine, Bozkurt said the wood turning actually helped her get through those hard times, instead of allowing cancer to keep her from it.

“It should have, but it didn’t. It was good because that’s a time when you’re down and the people I turn with are wonderful people and some of them knew what I was going through,” she said.

Despite being surrounded by other patients who experienced hair loss during radiation, Bozkurt said she did not lose her hair because she didn't undergo chemotherapy.

As time went on, and she finished treatment, the idea of turning wooden wig stands came to mind.

She said she brought the idea up to some members in her wood turning club, and when they agreed, she then took the idea to a friend at Orlando Health. After getting the okay from the hospital, the project began and hasn’t really stopped since.

Bozkurt said she and other club members have turned and donated dozens of wig stands between Orlando Health and most recently AdventHealth.

“It’s something the club will keep on doing,” Bozkurt said. “We’ll just keep on donating them.”

Dr. Nikita Shah, the section leader for breast cancer oncology with Orlando Health, said that with the variations of cancer and treatments, early detection is the best chance patients have at survival. With monthly self exams and annual mammograms after you reach the age of 40, or sooner if you’re at higher risk, Shah said that there is a 95% cure rate.

However, as important as it is to treat the body, Shah said treating the mind, and the patient, is just as important to healing.

“Sometimes just talking to somebody who’s been through [it], who can reassure the patient that, you know, ‘yes, you may not be feeling the best right now but in three months you’re going to be over this.’ And you look back and say ‘hey,’ that wasn’t the worst thing that I had to do. So, just having all those resources available makes all the difference,” Shah said.

She said that men can also get diagnosed with breast cancer in rare cases, which is why it’s important to know your body, follow suggested methods for early detection, and know what you’re looking for.

“Breast cancer would either present as a lump in the breast, nipple discharge, change in the color of the skin around the breast, or maybe change in the texture,” Shah said.

Bozkurt said her last scan was clear, but she credits early detection and getting through her diagnosis to going to get mammograms yearly, and the support from her wood turning club and family.