2013 Update 

Barbara's Breast Cancer Returns After Twenty Years

Read report here.

It includes a link to the author's additional report, "Why Medical Providers No Longer Want to Serve Medicare Patients," and her special study of all the expenses related to this medical experience and how little they received from Medicare payments.



The somber fact is that every woman is at risk. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in America.

See this Update re the Government's new breast cancer guidelines under "Obamacare."

CANCER SURVIVORS (and friends of Barbara's mentioned in this article) who have survived breast cancer and gone on to write books about their experiences:

Leila Peltosaari, author of Dancing With Fear

Lois Hjelmstad, author of Fine Black Lines.

Contact the following to order free pamphlets and brochures on specific topics of interest:

American Cancer Society  1-800-ACS-2345

The National Cancer Institute 1-800-422-6237

Also visit Cancer Facts.com, which offers one-of-a-kind decision support for women with breast cancer, men with prostate cancer, or patients with colorectal cancer, allowing them to directly compare their personal disease parameters to thousands of women and men patients who have gone before. Whether you are coping with cancer yourself or providing care to someone with cancer, here you'll find reliable information and a supportive community.









Copyright © 2000-2013
by Barbara Brabec
All Rights Reserved
Barbara Brabec's World


What You Need to Know
About Breast Cancer

Barbara's Personal Experience

(See my 2012 "Obamacare Update" to this article in Part II, and my 2013 report at left.)

IN THE SUMMER OF 1993, breast cancer sneaked up on me when I wasnít looking. I was still publishing my home-business newsletter at that time, so I naturally wrote about how this disease affected my homebased business activities. Needless to say, I lost many hours for six weeks of that summer to doctor visits, medical testing, surgery, recovery time, and daily radiation treatments. But I was one of the lucky ones. My cancer was caught early and I was more than a little relieved when I passed the five-year mark with no recurrence of the disease. (The five-year survival rate is 92 percent if the cancer has not spread.)

Because I was so involved in work at the time, it was easy to put my cancer experience out of my mind once I'd recovered from the radiation treatments. As the months and years passed, the only time I thought about it at all was when I had to get my quarterly blood tests and annual mammogram. I knew I had totally put the experience out of my mind the day I found myself sitting in the doctor's office waiting for him to come in and suddenly realized I didn't remember which breast had been partially removed.

I do, however, think about breast cancer from time to time when I remember the friends of mine who have had breast cancer and consider all the other women at risk for this disease. Because some women are not giving breast cancer the attention it deserves, I thought it would be helpful to reprint the story of my experience, initially shared only with my print newsletter subscribers.

Lifeís Little Interruptions

At my doctor's recommendation, I started getting annual mammograms when I turned 50. But I skipped my 1992 mammogram because I was so busy working on my home business. Finally, after sending my Summer 1993 issue off to the printer, I took time to get my long-overdue mammogram.

That morning as I left the hospitalís Breast Center, I recall thinking that it was really stupid of me to delay this important annual test because it had taken less than an hour of my time. If it turns out that you have cancer, and it has been growing all this time, you might not live to regret your stupidity, I thought.

When the doctor called to tell me there were "suspicious cells" that required a biopsy, I accepted the news with surprising calmness, partly, I think, because my intuition had already given me this signal, and partly because I had been reading the literature on breast cancer for years and figured my luck could run out any day. I learned then that one in nine women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime and three-quarters of all breast cancers occur in women over 50. So instead of thinking, "Why me?" when I got the news, one of my first thoughts was that I was in good company. I'll bet many of you have been this route already, or are currently facing the problem, or have a friend, sister, or mother with the disease. The somber fact is that every woman is at risk. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in America.

Unfortunately, many doctors are apparently forgetting to remind women over 50 to get an annual mammogram, and the bad press mammograms have received in the past have convinced other women not to bother with them. Iím glad to be in a position where I can influence women to give this topic the attention it demands. A mammogram caught my cancer in its earliest stage. Put more strongly, this simple x-ray not only saved me from having to deal with cancer in an advanced stage, but has given me better odds for a longer life. While it's true that a mammogram wonít catch all breast cancers, it often spots cancerous cells long before a lump can be felt.

A Matter of Attitude

My surgeon, who is apparently used to dealing with women who cry a lot when they learn they have breast cancer, was surprised when I came to his office alone to discuss the X-ray findings and didn't get emotional when he said cancer cells had been found. I said that, as a self-employed individual, my immediate concern was not for the salvation of my breast, but of my business schedule.

"Give me the straight scoop," I said. "Is this cancer likely to kill me?" No. "Can I delay surgery for two weeks to attend to some critical business matters?" Yes. "How soon after surgery can I get back to work?" As soon as you feel like it. "Will the removal of the lymph nodes restrict my arm or hand movement?" No. "Will the follow-up radiation treatments make me too ill to do the speaking engagements Iíve scheduled for October?" No. "Will chemotherapy be necessary?" Too early to tell.

As it turned out, I didn't need chemotherapy—only an anti-estrogen pill to help prevent the cancer from recurring—so I was spared the agony of having to lose my hair. (I had visions of delivering my home-business humor speeches that fall either half-bald or in an ill-fitting wig, which unsettled me far more than the thought of losing a breast.)

When the surgeon asked if I wanted to get a second opinion, I countered with the question, "Have you done a lot of breast cancer surgeries?" Yes.  "Good," I said, "because I donít want someone who is still practicing." It took a minute, but he finally decided this was a joke, and I got a real laugh from him the day I pointed out an error on the special instructions list he gives to his surgery patients. It advised me to wear a "brazier" for at least a week after surgery. (Of course he meant "brassiere.")

With the good news that all the cancer cells had been removed during my lumpectomy, and none were present either in the lymph nodes or bones, I found it easy to adopt an "attitude of gratitude." I was especially grateful that my insurance coverage limited out-of-pocket expenses to $3500 because the total cost to remove a few cancer cells was $31,216, with radiation treatments eating up $17,000 alone. I also felt lucky to have found this problem in mid-year so the bulk of my expenses were confined to one calendar year and that year's insurance deductible figure.

Radiation Treatments

Another thing I was grateful for was how modern technology has taken radiation treatments out of the stone age. Now, radiation can be directed to pinpoint spots, so the damage to good tissue is minute. In fact, my skin never even turned red after six weeks of treatment. The only down side to the radiation treatments were that they made me tired. The technician told me that radiation eats up a lot of energy because the body has to replace all the white cells that are being destroyed along with the cancer cells. For a long time after the treatments stopped, I tired more easily and needed more sleep. This passed in due time, however, and before long I was back to normal.

To page 2: " Turning Crisis to Opportunity"


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