It was May 11, 2013, a Saturday, when I discovered it. I referred to as my physician’s workplace that Monday and subsequently freaked out once I was informed it’d be three to 4 weeks earlier than they might see me. I’ve all the time been a comparatively calm individual, however I knew I wanted to get this checked instantly. That’s once I turned to Planned Parenthood.
I’ve all the time considered Planned Parenthood as merely the physician’s workplace it’s: I went there at 16, when my mother introduced me to get contraception. I went there for annual exams in school, once I was a broke scholar. I went there in upstate New York, when it was only a snug place to get handled, simply a physician’s workplace, simply a corporation that had all the time been there for me.
In 2013, Planned Parenthood turned greater than a spot the place I might get routine health care. It turned the place that actually saved my life.
When the doctor at Planned Parenthood felt the lump, they stated it wanted to be checked out extra and despatched me to a radiologist the subsequent day for a mammogram. The outcomes got here in on that Wednesday, however the radiologist’s workplace stated they have been inconclusive. The physician at Planned Parenthood didn’t settle for that: “No no no,” they said, “This is something serious.” They pushed for me, and acquired me an appointment on the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care Clinic instantly for extra checks.
There, I had three extra mammograms. I targeted on getting myself to each appointment and letting the docs poke and prod me so as to discover out some solutions. I used to be capable of keep calm by means of that course of, till I walked again into Elizabeth Wende on Thursday to get my outcomes. They introduced me right into a darkish room, made to look serene with candles, and the physician held my hand whereas telling me that they have been 99.99 % positive I had breast most cancers. They needed to do a needle biopsy and would inform me concerning the remaining .1 % the subsequent morning.
I had gone to the clinic with a good friend and once I walked out, she requested me what occurred. “I don’t want to talk about it yet,” I advised her. “I just want a cheeseburger.”
We drove to Red Robin, and when she sat down within the sales space throughout from me, I simply checked out her and stated it plainly: “I have cancer.”
How to do a breast self-exam:
I hadn’t even cried but from the shock, however she began crying instantly. We’ve been associates since seventh grade and it was on this sobering second that the shock set in. Oh my god, we thought, we’re in our twenties, and I’ve most cancers.
My breast most cancers was stage 3B, which means it had already unfold from the tumor into my lymphatic system. I would wish each my breasts eliminated in addition to chemotherapy and radiation. I used to be informed that had I waited a day, it might have progressed to stage four, probably the most superior stage of breast most cancers, and I don’t know if I might have gained that struggle. But what I do know is that Planned Parenthood would have helped me with the struggle. It was the physician at Planned Parenthood who pushed for extra conclusive outcomes, who knew it was critical, who helped me get the solutions I didn’t essentially know I wanted to remain alive.
Before that day, I had by no means observed something improper with my physique. But after days of mammograms that squished my breasts as flat as crepes, I might really feel the lump rising, agitated, first right into a marble after which, ultimately, to the dimensions of a golf ball. The physician stated it took up nearly all of my breast. I had my double mastectomy on June 11, 2013—precisely a month after I first felt the lump—and began chemo about three weeks after my surgical procedure.
At the beginning of all of this, I had simply left a job, and I needed to bear a 90-day ready interval to hitch my new firm’s insurance coverage plan. That meant I didn’t have health insurance coverage. Of course, previous to discovering the pebble-sized lump that modified my life, I used to be younger and felt indestructible, so I didn’t begin a brand new plan in between jobs. We all assume we’ll be simply fantastic, after which your worst nightmare turns into actuality.
My worst nightmare didn’t concern what would occur to me, essentially, however what would occur to my daughter, Emma, who was 2 and a half when this all started, and my sister, 16 then, who I raised after our mother handed away in 2009. I used to be all that that they had and I wanted to enter survival mode for my household. I had no concept how I might afford remedy with out insurance coverage.
That’s the place Planned Parenthood got here by means of for me once more. The receptionist informed me to provide her all my paperwork and she or he was capable of get me on Medicaid. I didn’t should cope with the extra stress of going to Social Services or making an attempt to determine insurance coverage whereas additionally being robust for myself, balancing docs appointments and the bodily and emotional modifications that turned my new actuality.
Looking again now, I do know I might have depleted my financial savings inside the first month and a half of remedy had I not had assist. One shot I might get after each chemo session was $7,000 a syringe. My surgical procedures, together with the mastectomy, plus comply with up issues like spacers to stretch my pores and skin for implants, totaled greater than $80,000. If I needed to pay that out of pocket, I might have misplaced my home and my automotive, and I might in all probability nonetheless be drowning in debt—if I had even been capable of get the remedies I wanted to stay.
I completed chemo on Halloween 2013, and I painted my face like a sugar cranium whereas getting my final remedy, profiting from my bald head. There is all the time some lightness to the darkness.
On April four, 2014, at 28, I acquired my implants, and my most cancers journey was technically accomplished, however my story won’t ever be over. Even although I went to different hospitals and specialists for my remedy after that first appointment at Planned Parenthood, they checked in on me the entire time. The receptionist who initially helped me stored the Planned Parenthood physician on my chart, in order that they obtained all my data and outcomes and would name me after exams and appointments. It was nice, like a pal reaching out, however I wasn’t stunned. I feel that’s a part of what Planned Parenthood is: caring. They create a bond with individuals, and that’s why I didn’t hesitate once they requested me to share my story.
Last yr, Planned Parenthood requested to share my story on a billboard close to my hometown in upstate New York. Lots of people thanked me for placing my neck on the market like that and women began to share their very own tales about how Planned Parenthood helped them. To me, it simply made sense. I assumed, if placing my face on a billboard for six months could make a distinction, what else can I do?
That’s why I helped begin Planned Parenthood’s Cancer Survivors Network to name on the federal government to guard Planned Parenthood. As quickly as I heard that “defunding” Planned Parenthood was even on the desk, I reached out to the women I do know there to see how I might assist.
I actually assume this community will make a distinction, as a result of all of us have an amazing story to inform. For women who might should cope with a analysis sooner or later, to have a security internet or somebody to succeed in out to is immeasurable. I’m in contact with my native oncology unit and go to youthful women once they first are available. I’m capable of maintain their arms, inform them that Biotene mouthwash is the perfect to make use of when your remedy causes sores in your mouth, and that sure, even your eyelashes and eyebrows might fall out, so be ready. Nobody tells you what most cancers goes to be like, however with this community, we will share the tales of women who’ve survived their diagnoses, and we may give them hope, displaying the world the distinction Planned Parenthood might make, a distinction it may well solely make if it’s nonetheless there.