By Paula Hoffman
“I never wanted to do this to your dad” were the first words that introduced me to the world of breast cancer. What were the words or story that brought you to the mission of ending breast cancer? Remember back to the first time you made the decision to make a difference in the lives of others. The Susan G Komen Race for the Cure is not just a one day event, it is a lifetime of change for someone. Thank you for being a part of it.
Twenty five years ago when my mom spoke those words, I found out for the first time that my dad’s mom had died of breast cancer at the age of 50. This was 40+ years ago when there was no Susan G. Komen foundation or standardized screening for breast cancer, so her cancer was found too late. However my mom, 25 years ago, found a lump and went to have it checked out. She was told to have follow up testing done within a year but at the time could not afford the $100 deposit for the mammogram. What have you spent $100 on this week? At the time there were no grants available for her at that time and no huge push for insurance to pay. So her cancer grew aggressively until she was able to afford a diagnosis. After she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a unilateral mastectomy she said “at least insurance will now cover my mammogram cost”.
Because of my mom’s fight, I knew I had to do more than just wear a pink ribbon. I wanted to be the boots on the ground making a difference. So I became a breast cancer ambassador and a mammography technologist at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center. Rodgers Health, is an urban health center located near downtown Kansas City, MO. We have been a part of this community since 1967 as the first Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) in Missouri and the fourth in the nation. Our patients can be uninsured or underinsured with high deductibles. And deciding if you go for a screening breast imaging or put food on your table is a hard choice to make. I cannot tell you the number of times I have had my patients crying because they found a lump and do not know what to do. However, as a grantee of Susan G. Komen we do not have to turn these women away. I know that our health center, Rodgers Health, can take care of them and help them through to diagnosis. They do not have to wait until they can AFFORD to have cancer, to be diagnosed.
My mom chose to not only fight, but make a difference in the lives of other survivors. She bravely fought breast cancer five times over 18 years. She was a pioneer test patient in many of the drugs that are used today, a couple of those being Herceptin and Tamoxifen. She was vocal about the need for research and did not always take the doctor’s advice to just sit on the sidelines and wait. When they told her she needed oral chemotherapy, we found out that insurance would not cover the almost $10,000 per treatment price tag. She used her story to let others know the need for coverage and a bill was passed for insurance to cover the treatment. Susan G. Komen helped in the passing of this bill, and I was lucky enough to be there when it was signed and take that pen back to her during her chemotherapy treatment.
Without your support families and patients like mine would not be able to fight breast cancer.
My mother fought bravely for 18 long years and although she is no longer with us her legacy lives on. Last year her baby sister, my aunt, was diagnosed at age 48 and this April my sister was diagnosed at age 45. Both of them are using the same drugs my mom tested to save their lives today. Drugs that were found through research partially funded by Susan G Komen. RESEARCH MATTERS!
My aunt had gone in regularly for mammograms and had a biopsy that was benign in that same area the year before. However, when they asked for it to be biopsied again she did not think twice about it since she knew the risk, but also had insurance to pay for it. But what about the patients who have already received a huge bill for the last biopsy? Did you know that the DEPOSIT for a MRI or biopsy can be around $700? Do you think they will go back again?
My sister had a benign mammogram two months before she found her lump. We know that 92% of all cancers are found through mammography but what about those that are not. How will patients be educated on what to look for?
It is through grant programs and research that we will see an end to breast cancer. Early detection is the key to survival. However, without funding more women and men will go without diagnosis and research projects will end. Without your help through Susan G. Komen of Greater Kansas City I would not be able to help my patients get the answers they need for their health.
Thank you again for being a part of the Susan G Komen of Greater Kansas City Race for the Cure. Know that you are making a difference in your life, the life of your family, your friends, my patients and in the life of a stranger you may never meet.
Find out more on our Race for the Cure at www.KOMENKCRACE.org.
To get more involved with Susan G. Komen go to www.KOMENKANSASCITY.org.
Paula Hoffman is the Manager of Diagnostic Services at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center as well as a Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City Volunteer, Pink Army Ambassador and Donor.
Note: 75% of the net funds raised through the Greater Kansas City Affiliate via Race for the Cure, Pink Promise Conference, Rock the Ribbon and other fundraising initiatives are invested locally to support awareness, education, screenings, treatment and advocacy programs (More than $16.2 million donated locally since 1994). 25% of the net funds raised locally are committed to the national scientific research grants program (Nearly $4 million since 1994).