Wednesday, October 8, 2008

October: A month to celebrate

Who knew October was such a festive month?! This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month but also contains Oktoberfest (celebrated in my little town on Oct 25) National Customer Service Appreciation Week (this year October 6-10), Yom Kippur begins at sundown tonite, Columbus Day ( Oct 13) National Bosses Day (Oct 16) and of course Halloween.

This year's Oktoberfest coincides with my grandmother's birthday. Yes, the same grandmother who always comments on my weight. While I was overweight, she would have something to say about everything I put in my mouth. After I lost 45 pounds she'd bake me a cake or a pie everyday and tell me it would hurt her feelings if I didn't eat them. Go figure.

I will definately be seeing her early in the day so that I may enjoy all "the fruits" that Oktoberfest has to offer.

We are now over the hump in Customer Service Appreciation Week.
We've had great food and fun little activities and some nifty little gifts. All of our field representatives have told us how much they appreciate us and everyone has been really nice. Everyone, except, of course, our customers, who could care less.

But the main reason for my post today is to tell a little story that I posted earlier in the year. It is about my own close call with Breast Cancer and the courageous fight of 21 year old Catherine Carswell.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reflections on the Past

I've recently become "aquainted" (thru a blog) with the daughter of a man I've worked with for the past 17 years. Her name is Catherine. She's a 21 year old Senior in college, has a great boyfriend (hopefully soon to be engaged) and is also looking over the edge, at a whole new life. You know the one, where you finish, school, start your career, marry the man of your dreams and start a family. Traveling down the road of life, as it stretches out before her.

But she's hit a little speed bump....she has breast cancer.

I know what you are thinking..."Breast cancer...are you serious? She's only 21! Breast cancer only strikes women in their 40's!" Yeah, that's what your insurance company would like to think too, That is why they only "approve" mamograms for women over 40.

The fact is, anyone with breast tissue (even men!) can develop breast cancer, at any age.And Catherine is working to spread that message.

Read about her here:

I remember when I, myself, was 18 and I found my first lump. It was about the size of a "mojo" marble (telling my age huh?) in my right breast. It hurt like hell and made my whole right side sore. I remember calling for the appointment and the nurse telling me, "Oh, lumpy breasts are common in girls your age, it'll be nothing." and booked my appointment for a month out.

I related this to a dear friend and her mother, content that I had nothing to worry about, because, I was "too young for it to be anything serious." The look that passed between them when I said this could have frozen the Gulf of Mexico. Her mother, usually chatty and upbeat, took my hands in hers and pulled me up close to her. She fixed her eyes on mine, and in a voice I will never forget, said " there is no such thing as 'too young'."

Fighting back tears, she recounted how, just a year before, she had lost her baby sister. My friend and I had been casual friends when it happened. I knew that she had died, but didn't really know the details, and never really thought to ask. She told me about the lump her sister had found, how the doctor told her it was just "lumpy breasts" and at her age it was nothing to worry about. By the time it became "something to w0rry about, " little could be done. She died of breast cancer at 22.

My mother called and successfully convinced the doctor's office to move my appointment up.

The next opening was 2 weeks away. In that 2 weeks, my little "friend" had grown to the size of a golf ball. It hurt to wear a bra, it hurt to go without one. The humiliation began almost immediately. I'd never been to an OB/GYN before and the thought of being naked in front of this strange man was almost too much to bear. The breast exam was painful. When I touched the lump, I did so gingerly, but he did not as he tried to determine size, depth, composition. I nearly came unglued when the doctor suggested he attempt to draw fluid off it to see if it was a cyst. It was solid and unyeilding and the whole process hurt like hell. They took me across the hall to where the pregnant women got their sonograms, to get a look at it. There were were joined by an intern class of about 6. Each one wanted to feel my lump too.

It was determined that not only did I have this lump, I had 2 more on the other side. Not quite as big, but noticable. Attempts to obtain a fluid sample from them were also unsuccessful. It was decided that they all had to come out. Surgery was scheduled for the next week, which was approximately 2 days after Christmas.

I was put to sleep that day, not knowing if I would have breasts when I woke up. I was exactly 6 months from my 19th birthday.

I praise the Lord here! Things went well.

The lumps turned out to be fibrocystic, which is why they grew so quickly...relatively common. I was told that I had one more small lump, just at the base of my breast. It seemed to be the same as the others and was left to avoid damaging the tissue surrounding it. I went home to recover and prepare for the New Year.

It was then that the bills started coming in. The bill for the mamography...DENIED by our insurance carrier....marked "medically unnecessary before age 40." How can something that is ordered by your doctor be called "medically unnecessary'?! My mother, single by this time, wrote letter after letter, copying and highlighting pages of doctor's notes but the insurance company would not budge. We wound up paying for that mamogram out of pocket.

Because of the condition, my doctor ordered a mamogram every 2 years since and every 2 years, I wound up paying out of pocket.

I did eventually get that last lump removed. It grew to the size of a baseball. I had to have a breast reduction to "even things out." didn't have a problem paying for that.

I am now finally 40, the age when my insurance company thinks I should be worried about breast cancer.

And I am....for the young girls like Catherine.

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