Putting cancer on the shelf
For a few years, I always knew something was wrong but what's a person to do when they don't have health insurance. I don't know if you call this a blessing, but I remember my ear drum rupturing. Since I couldn't hear a thing, I knew at that moment I'd have to go to the doctors. Thanks to a co-worker of mine, I utilized the community clinic in my area. For those who don't know, a community clinic is a clinic that charges based on one's income. Not only did I get my ear taken care of, the kind nurse there asked me something I never replied out loud. "Is there anything else you'd like us to know about?"
"I've had this lump for years"
It was then for the first time ever that I replied, "Yes, I have had a large lump in my left breast for years." She then hands me this application for the breast and cervical screening program. Not knowing what to do with it, she kindly tells me to simply fill it out and that she would fax it over for me, and that I'd most likely hear from the program in a few days. After being excepted by the breast and cervical screening program, I got directions to have my first ever mammogram. As I was getting ready, the tech saw how large my mass was and instructed that I'd need to see the radiologist right away.
"You have stage 4 breast cancer"
Three weeks later, I returned and had a mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy. I'll never forget the first words the doctor said, "You're too young for this...its cancer." Great bedside manner, wouldn't you say? When that appointment ended, it was then I met my new primary care physician. She didn't say much but looked at me with sympathy. Took photos of my left breast to send to an oncologist that she recommended I see. The next day the oncologist office called me and we made my first appointment. When I met the oncologist, he had explained that it was "end-stage" advanced cancer. After the CT scan, bone scan, and blood work, it was confirmed that I had hormone receptors positive, HER2 gene negative cancer. I was also told, that it had spread to my sternum. Which meant, I was stage 4. The words of my oncologist, made hearing this, not so bad. He said, "Its treatable, HR+ HER2- is what you want".
The importance of breast cancer screening programs
Since February 2020, I have been on Ibrance and Fulvestrant. Every month, my CA 15-3 have shown that I am responding quite well. When I first started treatment, my markers were at 197. As of October 2020, my markers are now 31. Before I started treatment, my cancer mass was 10cm, about the size of a softball. Eight months later, 7x3.5cm, the size of an egg. I wish I hadn't put my health on the shelf, but I am thankful for the breast and cervical screening program. If it wasn't for them, I would be bankrupt paying for a lifetime of cancer treatment. I always tell folks about this program because unlike regular Medicaid, this program is for women with breast and cervical cancer and the income cap is much higher, 250%. Don't be scared to ask for help. I'm glad I did because now if something were to happen to me, I know my husband will be alright and won't be swimming in medical bills.
Caregivers: Do you practice self-care?