Carol Brown wasn't eager to have an 8-foot high picture of herself on a billboard.
But the new billboards she appears on in York City are promoting a message she hopes will save lives.
A five-year cancer survivor, Brown is part of the billboard project along with several other York volunteers -- some cancer survivors, some not.
They were photographed to help convey the message that cancer does not discriminate. And that early detection and prevention save lives.
Brown, now 54, of York Township, was diagnosed with cancer when she was 49 the same age that her mother was when she died from breast cancer.
Brown also lost her husband of 30 years to cancer this past August.
So when Lawrence Tyler, her friend and fellow 1975 William Penn High School graduate, came to her with an idea to use billboards featuring York residents to encourage early detection and prevention of cancer, Brown was on board.
The two used their own local photography business, Tyler Brown Photography, to put the plan into action.
They contacted friends and
family members who had cancer, and others who were affected by cancer even if they were not diagnosed with it themselves.
"Cancer doesn't just affect the person that is sick, it affects the entire family," Brown said.
Some people turned down the offer because they didn't want their picture on a huge billboard, Brown said, but most were eager to be part of something with such a positive message.
Attitude counts: "We want people to know that just because they did have cancer that's not the end of the world," said Tyler, 55, of Spring Garden Township. "There are survivors, and we want to encourage anybody else going through it that they are not alone."
Brown said a positive attitude was key to her survival.
"It is not an automatic death sentence," Brown said. "There are a lot of people who survive, and I think your attitude has a lot to do with it. I saw so many people going through treatment that thought they were doomed. I tried to encourage them to speak up and ask questions, because the more knowledge you have the less scary it is."
She knew that something was wrong with her body even though some doctors insisted she was fine.
"I always tell people that if you don't feel well or if you feel that something is wrong, you have to be your own advocate," said Brown. "They told me I was fine, but I kept pushing and saying that something was wrong, and my surgeon told me later that I saved my own life, because if I had gone home and waited a year it would have spread to my lymph nodes."
The response to the billboards -- which have been up since June 5 -- has been great, Brown and Tyler agree.
"I actually had one person stop me downtown and she told me that because of seeing us on the news and our whole billboard campaign, she went and made a mammogram appointment because she had been putting it off," said Brown. "So to hear that already made me feel like everything was worth it, even if it was just that one person."
The four billboards are located downtown at West Philadelphia Street just past Beaver Street, Parkway Boulevard north of Front Street, East Market Street just past Broad Street and at Princess and Queen streets.
Just a start? Brown and Tyler could afford to have the billboards up for one month, and if the advertising space is not sold, Lamar Advertising agreed to leave them up because they recognize them as a community service message.
Brown and Tyler hope to raise enough money to create more billboards in the future.
Their first endeavor featured women, but they would like to use men on the next round of billboards, Tyler said.
They are also holding an auction from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Penn State York to raise money for their project. Anything extra will be given to the American Cancer Society.
The event will feature live music, baked goods, a silent auction and a live auction from 7 to 8. Some of the items donated include $500 worth of Neiman Marcus items, four adult tickets to Hersheypark, a teeth whitening kit and other gift cards to local restaurants and businesses.
Anyone interested in donating toward the billboard campaign should contact Brown at email@example.com.
-- Reach Chelsea Shank at firstname.lastname@example.org.