Wednesday, July 25, 2012

It Takes a Village...

It takes a village…

I went to get my hair cut today (always a fun event these days).  As I was sitting waiting for my stylist, I was busy texting my BC buddy Phyllis.  Phyllis had her bilateral mastectomies a few weeks ago and had some questions regarding recovery.  Our favorite surgeon, Dr. C, has deployed since her surgery (remember, he’s an Army Reservist) and she wasn’t getting quality answers from his sub, so I gave her my two cents.  I know how particular Dr. C is about us healing properly after surgeries.  He says it makes reconstruction easier if everything heals correctly the first time.  Seeing how good my reconstruction looks after I sort of followed his explicit instructions, I can’t fault the guy. ;0)

My hairstylist, K, has a very dear friend who is a breast cancer survivor, so we BC girls are near and dear to his heart.  K has a big heart anyway, but he’s always up for helping the community with anything related to breast cancer.  Anyway, the last time I got my hair cut, his friend had just had a major cancer setback.  Naturally, my first question to him today was to ask how she was doing.  Thankfully, she’s okay at the moment - “okay” being a relative term when you’re discussing cancer setbacks.

So, our conversation wended its’ way through discussions of mutual friends and acquaintances that have been through treatment or are going through treatment.  Unfortunately, K has just had another good friend diagnosed with breast cancer.  She is a young mother with an infant daughter and just had bilateral mastectomies.  The irony of her situation is that she is a tattoo artist who spends each October giving tats to breast cancer survivors. 

And then K’s also now worried about another young woman who has some suspicious lumps.  The young woman can’t get anyone to take her seriously because of her age and her lack of health insurance.  For crying out loud!  When are the medical professionals going to get it through their heads that YES, young women do get breast cancer!  I know that not all medical professionals are like that, but seriously, there are far too many out there. 

Case in point: had I taken what the doctor that I saw when I went in for my early follow-up mammogram referral at face value, my outcome might not have been nearly as “rosy” as it is right now.  The doctor I saw told me that my lump (that had only been a teeny tiny spot on a mammogram less than two months prior) felt like normal breast tissue and that “most breast cancers are closer to the chest wall”.  She didn’t want to write the referral for me, but I insisted – thank goodness!  When she finally did follow-up with me several weeks later after reading my mammography report to tell me that I should get a biopsy, I had already had my biopsy and had been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

At the time, I was so livid I couldn’t even talk – huge, I know.  Despite the radiologist identifying something suspicious on a previous mammogram, she had tried to brush me off three weeks earlier.  Thankfully, I knew better than to accept her flippant comments.  So what if I was young?  I knew something wasn’t right and she should have listened to me and taken me seriously.  Yes, even after almost two years, her blasé attitude toward my concerns still infuriates me!! 

But, I digress.  I gave K some resources for the young woman to check out and then promptly got online when I got home to see if there were more.  Thankfully, there are. 

This all got me thinking.  The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to get through a traumatic illness like breast cancer.  The “village” surrounds and protects you.  It provides what you need to get you through not just the day to day, but the year-to-year, milestone to milestone.  It cheers when things are going well and it rallies behind you when things aren’t.  The village “raises” you.

Some of my favorite "villagers"
I was blessed to be put in touch with so many wonderful people, resources, and healthcare professionals when I was beginning my cancer journey.  Thankfully, I never had to worry about insurance, how the kids were getting to activities, or what was going to be served for dinner.  I had friends and family fly in from out of town or drive over from across town (or down the street in Lynn's case) to help out when I needed it.  Through the wonders of the Internet, I was fortunate to have a “global village”.   I met people from all over the world who happily became my “villagers”.

Now, I’m on the other side and I’m trying to be a good villager - to help those that come after me.  That being said, below is a list of resources to check out regarding financial help when dealing with breast cancer and what your rights are as a breast cancer patient.  I’m sure I missed some and that there are plenty of other sites that have helpful information.  Please feel free to share those with me. (This site explains what provisions insurance companies are required by federal law to provide breast cancer patients.)  (This is the link to Susan G. Komen Advocacy Alliance to sign a petition for the Breast Cancer Bill of Rights.) (The Young Survivor’s Coalition is a group that specifically addresses the needs of young women affected by breast cancer.) (This site has info regarding how to pay for breast cancer treatment when you have no insurance.) (This link provides answers regarding what programs might be available for the uninsured) (This site details how to get free mammograms - if diagnosed, treatment is covered) (formally Breast Friends Forever - the organization that provides emotional, intellectual, spiritual and financial needs to young women and their families affected by breast cancer.) (Color Me Pink is a local store in Centerville, GA that caters specifically to the needs of all breast cancer survivors and their families.  Judy Mason is the owner and is very knowledgeable about local resources.) (Go to this site daily and click to provide free mammograms for women in need.)  (This is a great general information website that I used quite a bit in the beginning.) (This is another great general info site.)

And last, but not least, I’m always available to help out.  Call me, text me, send me smoke signals, whatever. 

I hope this helps anyone in need.  As I said, it takes a village…

Ladies, check your girls.  Gents, check your girls’ girls. :0)

Gen =)

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