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."
(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
American Cancer Society 1-800-ACS-2345
The National Cancer Institute 1-800-422-6237
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
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
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.
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.
page 2: " Turning Crisis to Opportunity"
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