Photo by Amir Marandi Productions was taken in
an old graveyard outside of Columbus, Ohio
FLOWERS ON MY GRAVE
Flowers on my grave: I know it sounds kind of morbid – but there is a reason that I’m writing this post. October is national breast cancer awareness month and one out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Think about
it – some of the women around you maybe next for a diagnosis depending on various factors. Doctors and Medical Oncologists will look at family history such as mother, grandmother, and sisters. Thankfully my mother and grandmother never had breast cancer and I don’t have any sisters. So the questions still looms in the back of my mind – how did this happen? I have asked this question many times and don’t have any answers other than the fact that I had a lot of personal and professional stress at the time leading up to the diagnosis.
The reason for this post is the fact that too many women are either uninsured or under-insured and this can be life threatening in so many ways. When I found the lump on the right side of my chest I had no health insurance at the time. I was working in commission sales and simply couldn’t afford the company’s health plan. In order to realistically afford health insurance one has to be able to fully cover the rent, utilities, food, student loans, car payments, etc., and if there is anything left over maybe health insurance; but the basic necessities have to come first if one wants to survive in today’s challenged economy. I had done without healthcare for many years because I had no insurance or simply couldn’t pay for it. I went nine years without a pap smear because when I had switched careers – I either worked long hour and had no time to see a doctor because business sales is like Pro – football – fast paced and long hours or I was under-insured.
The scary fact is that many women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and have no
way to pay for it and by the time they can finally get some form of coverage;
the cancer may have gone too far or worse yet they die as a result of not
receiving treatment on time. How do I know this? Because I was one of them that
made it just in the nick of time. Imagine what it would feel like to have a
breast cancer diagnosis and have nowhere to go with it or pay for it; this was
me. Thankfully I was connected with the right people and was able to get into a
program called the breast and cervical cancer program. If I hadn’t made it into
this program and received treatment; I’d still be searching for a way to pay
for treatment and by now there would be nothing left but flowers on my grave.
I was in the shower at my apartment after an intense workout session with the trainer
and was super lean because I was dieting down and getting ready to compete in
bodybuilding in three months. As I soaped up in the shower my hand ran across
what felt like a hard stone. I ran my fingers over it again and started to
panic. I started to cry because I had never felt anything like this; it was
hard like a small stone that was right under my skin and I knew it was cancer.
I checked my other side and found nothing. By this time my heart was racing, I
was sweating even though I was in the shower, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I
had remembered how my neighbor next door had shriveled up to about fifty pounds
and died not long after her doctors informed her that the cancer was
everywhere. I couldn’t stop crying because I remember six years earlier how my
mother would take food over to the neighbor because she was too sick to cook
for herself during her final days. The woman was on IV and her sister was there
and took care of her. I remember she was not even aware that we were there
because they had her on so much pain medication and the cancer had more then
taken its toll. It’s a terrible feeling to witness someone who was dying like
that lady did and now I was next and faced with the possibility of an early
death myself. I was going to let it go and I started to take the attitude
whatever happens, happens. But I thought
about my mother and how could she face the possibility of having to bury me if
I died. I tried not to think about it but the memory of my neighbor who lived
in the townhouse next to us just seemed to burn in my mind like a candle that
wouldn’t be snuffed out. I didn’t want to face all of the pain and suffering
only to die a horrible death before my time. Once I got out of the shower I
jumped on the computer to quickly research breast lumps. There is so much
information out there that it’s almost mind boggling. Where do I even start?
When I first found this mysterious lump I was going to let it go because what was the
point? Without health insurance it was a no win situation and there was no way
that I could pay for healthcare. I wasn’t going to tell anybody and I certainly
wasn’t going to tell my family. This was scary because I was caught between a
rock and a hard place with no real answers to anything. I still continued to
work hard and train hard but the thought and memory of my former neighbor kept
on haunting me and besides any relatives that ever had cancer all died. Did I
really want to face this at such a young age?
I went to dinner one night with a friend and coworker and informed her that I found a
lump in my breast. She looked startled and asked what was I going to do? I
informed her that without health insurance there was nothing I could do. I called
the doctor that I had been going to while living out of state and he told me to
contact the American Cancer Society for starters and he kind of gave me a heads
up of what to do next and where to start. This doctor was a really cool guy –
he had been a former lumberjack and went to med school later in life. I
realized that I couldn’t let this go and informed my mother and she told me to
get help and go to the ACS ASAP.
After a series of mammograms, doctor visits, and finally a breast biopsy; my worst
nightmare was confirmed – I had stage 1 breast cancer. I did go to the ACS and
they took care of and got me as far as the biopsy. In the mean time I had
finally landed an executive level sales opportunity and lost it just days after
being diagnosed. Again I was without health insurance, had no job, and no money
to pay for healthcare. Now what was my next question? The good news was – this type
of cancer was encapsulated and was very treatable. The bad news – I now have a cancer
diagnosis and no way to pay for it. This was a nightmare because I contacted a
friend who was a bankruptcy attorney and talked to him about options. He
informed me that I’d have to spend down everything so I could qualify for help.
I informed him that if I did this I’d have nothing to live on while I went
through treatment. Again I was faced with the impossible until a financial advisor
introduced me to the breast and cervical cancer program. I did get approved for
this wonderful program and was able to receive treatment on time.
This was all very scary because it had taken about three months from the time I found
the lump until I walked into the operating room for cancer surgery. Fortunate
for me this was what the surgeons nurse had jokingly referred to as garden
variety cancer which meant that it would sit awhile and go nowhere. A friend of
mine was not so fortunate because she had a mammogram in April and everything
was good. This friend was a nurse and found a lump in her breast only three
months later and it was a fast growing aggressive breast cancer and had to be
treated fast! If this friend had to wait even a couple of months the way I did she
might have not survived the cancer. I thank God every day that I had something
that wasn’t aggressive.
I am now cancer free, have great health, and able to compete in fitness on an NPC level.
I have put together a very motivational eBook that is available on all electronic media! I also have a resource guide in the eBook so that others can get the information they need. There is more help available then you could ever imagine possible. Now the only flowers are the ones in my vase.