AUSTIN (KXAN) — Later this month, more than 300 riders will gather for the annual Texas Mamma Jamma Ride to raise money for Lone Star Circle of Care’s Big Pink Bus.

“It’s literally a big pink bus,” explained Marion Martin, the ride’s director. “We ride the roads of Central Texas we serve five counties — Bastrop, Burnet, Hays, Travis and Williamson — and we bring mobile mammography to women who are underserved and who don’t have insurance.”

Since last July, the Big Pink Bus has traveled over 10,000 miles across Central Texas and more than 1,800 women have been screened on the pink bus. Martin said breast cancer was detected in three of those women and are now in active treatment.

“Our connection to those that we serve doesn’t end necessarily with the breast screening, because we want to make sure happy outcomes as much as possible,” she said.

Martin said about 13% of women who get screened through the Big Pink Bus require an additional follow-up.

Marion Martin participating in the Texas Mamma Jamma Ride. (Source: Marion Martin)

“We have patient navigation that then takes, works with every one of our clients to ensure that they get the follow-up care through our oncology partners so that they can immediately start treatment and have follow-up care,” Martin explained. “The game changer for the Big Pink Bus is the life-saving mission because breast cancer detected early is 98% survivable found at stage one.”

Martin herself is a two-time breast cancer survivor and participates in the ride each year as do many other breast cancer survivors.

“In 2019, I rode the 15-mile Texas Mamma Jamma Ride a day after I did chemo, and I felt like a superhero,” said Stacy Armijo.

Armijo was just shy of 40 — the age a lot of health care providers recommend women begin annual mammograms — when she got the news she had stage three breast cancer.

“Within a matter of weeks went from preparing for my 40th birthday to ended up being 20 weeks of chemotherapy, breast surgery and then six and a half weeks of radiation, all of which concluded about three weeks before we all went into quarantine for the pandemic.”

She had symptoms, and she also had the resources to get checked out, which is something she is grateful for as she said others aren’t so lucky.

“When I was a young person, I went for years without health insurance, and I can tell you, I absolutely did that. I said, ‘Oh, I have this thing going on. I’m sure it’s nothing. I’m sure it’s fine,’ because the thought of paying out of pocket for a doctor’s visit… it’s just tomorrow. It’s easy to just sort of think about like, ‘Oh, I’ll just deal with that tomorrow.'”

That’s why she’s been riding since 2019 to support the mobile mammography unit.

“I would tell any woman or anyone who loves a woman to ask her when her last mammogram was, and if she can’t remember, help her go schedule it,” she said.

In order for Armijo to keep her balance, she has to keep moving forward not just for herself but for all Central Texas women.

“I have a great short new haircut, I never would have gotten this haircut had I not lost all my hair and had a reason to find out. I want to be a crazy platinum blonde,” she said. “There are beautiful things in this experience that you could find, but the way that I had a friend put it who is also a survivor is she said, ‘This is the best club nobody ever wants to be a part of,’ so if I never encounter another woman who says, ‘Yep, me too. I have been there before.’ That will be a great day.”

  • (Photo: Stacy Armijo)
  • (Photo: Stacy Armijo)
  • (Photo: Stacy Armijo)
  • (Photo: Stacy Armijo)
  • (Photo: Stacy Armijo)
  • (Photo: Stacy Armijo)

The Texas Mamma Jamma Ride takes place on Sept. 17 in Taylor and there are several distances riders can participate in from 15 to 70-miles.

The Big Pink Bus offers free and low-cost breast cancer screening using a Hologic 3-D system. Appointment costs vary based on household size, income and for those who qualify, available funding programs and or insurance benefits.

How to qualify for a screening mammogram onboard the Big Pink Bus:

  • Are age 40 and older
  • Are uninsured, or have coverage from MAP, MAP Basic, or select commercial insurance
  • Have not had a mammogram in the last 12 months
  • Are not pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Are not experiencing breast issues such as lumps, discharge, or pain
  • Can independently walk up and down stairs

To schedule an appointment, women can call 1-844-PINK-BUS or email LSCC will qualify eligible uninsured patients for safety net programs and a sliding fee scale will be available according to household income and size. The healthcare clinic also accepts private insurance.

Those who would like to donate can do so online and sponsor a mammogram.