I have Breast Cancer.

This post is directed to those of you that are NOT covered by insurance and have found a lump in your breast.  This is my story.

Being Self Employed and owning your own business is not exactly the money machine some people think it is.  Sometimes it is no different than you living paycheck to paycheck.  We have a few months in a year that allow us to get a month or two ahead on our mortgage and other bills.  The remainder of the year is a drive and push just to stay current.

Joe is on Social Security and is covered under his Medicare Insurance.  I on the other hand have no insurance.  The monthly premiums of $600 to $800 for Health Insurance has relegated this expense to a “Luxury” item and not as necessary as our mortgage payment to keep us from being homeless.

My health is good.  I don’t live a healthy lifestyle, by  any means.  I don’t exercise regularly nor do I eat properly.  I have been blessed with good genes that enable me to thrive and contribute to society and enjoy my family and friends.  I don’t see my personal physician as often as is necessary.  I only go to see him if I think “I am dying”.  Which tends to mean I get to listen to a lecture at each infrequent visit.

I do the monthly breast self exams, rule out any non threatening symptoms of reproductive health issues by doing research and finding over the counter medicines to deal with yeast infections or odd and infrequent pains in my lower abdomen.  So I have made myself a defacto doctor with no qualifications.  So I am a “Fool” as a patient.

In early December 2015, I noticed a lump in my left breast when I was in bed one night.  I thought it was the bed clothes all bunched up.  That lump had not been there in any of my previous self exams.  While lying in bed I did a thorough self exam and did, in fact, find a lump about the size of a large grape.  It was located below my nipple and under the center portion of my left breast.

“What do I do now?”  This was at once frightening and bigger than life.  How long do I have?  How fast will this grow?  How am I going to get treatment?  I have no means to pay for any of the procedures.  I don’t have Insurance to help with the costs of treatment.  There won’t be a doctor anywhere that will take me as a patient with no Insurance.

I chose to keep this finding to myself and not tell my husband nor my family.

Over the months I kept a close watch on the growth of this lump.  I dug through the internet for information on Breast Cancer.  Symptoms, normal signs, what to look for, what alternatives did I have?

The lump remained the same size through December and January.  The lump could be moved if it was uncomfortable when I was in bed.  I found I could shift it to a different location when I laid on my left side and had discomfort.

February the lump became the size of a walnut.  It was not as easily moved as had been previously but I could still make myself comfortable while in bed.

I watched for any of the signs indicated in my research.  My nipple had not inverted (gone inside).  I had no orange peel texture to the skin of my breast.  I had no pain.

March the lump increased in size to an apricot and was hard.  It was no longer movable.  I could no longer shift it to a different position within my breast.  I looked for further signs as indicated by my research.  The nipple was still as prominent as the other breast.  No discoloration of the skin, no orange peel texture, and no pain.

Mid March I began to feel a “Hot” sensation in my left breast.  It was not painful, just odd.  I would get a burning and stinging sensation which would be varying degrees of intensity.  Nothing that a couple aspirin would not alleviate.  The lump was getting harder and more defined at this time.

April, the frequency of the burning and stinging sensations increased.  At times the sensation would last nearly the entire day, then disappear for a week.

May brought changes that were actually seen.  My nipple flattened, looked as though it were being pulled inward.  It still protruded slightly but had not totally inverted.  The lump was growing more and was getting harder.  By the end of May the lump was now the size of a large jalapeno pepper.  It was no longer round, it was elongating.  Located below my nipple and grew to both sides of center, as well as downward to the breast and chest wall.

June changes were even more noticeable to me.  My left breast was getting larger than my right breast.  When I raised my left arm above my head there was a definite flat line or demarcation of where my breast was different from the right breast.  Almost like a shelf holding up the roundness of my breast, where the right breast was normal and spherical.  Also, I  had a purple bruising or mottling of my skin under my breast about the size of a “Cutie” orange.

Over the months, when getting ready for bed in front of Joe I would pretend that I was looking for or at something as I disrobed.  Keeping my back to Joe and I dressed or undressed so he would not have cause to ask any questions.  June brought about changes that were now going to be harder and harder to keep this from Joe.  I knew he was going to ask what was wrong with me because one breast was very much larger than the other one.  There was also some dark pink discoloration (like a blush) on the outer skin of my breast on top.

While in California during our next to last delivery I decided to tell Joe.  His reaction made me wish I had kept my mouth shut.  The fear in his words and tone was unmistakable.  Fear and anger at me for not letting him know sooner was extremely hard to watch and listen to.

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner?” was his one demand.  My answer was “We don’t have the money for treatment.  I don’t have Insurance to deal with this.”

The next day I told one of my daughters while he told one of our other daughters.  That was not pleasant.

Although our daughters were shocked and upset with me for not telling them sooner, the two of them began telling me of my options even though I don’t have Insurance.  They helped me to understand that I could get treatment and survive this ordeal because there are hospitals and facilities that specialize in Breast Cancer that have alternative methods of payment.  Some facilities offer “Grants” to patients that can’t afford proper treatment and diagnosis of Breast Cancer.

Teaching hospitals would be the best route for me to go.  They have staff, both medical and financial, that can help the Un-Insured get the proper treatment necessary.  I would have to surrender to being a “Teaching” patient for the doctors and nurses in training but I would get the same care as anyone with Insurance would get.

An appointment with our Family Doctor was made for the Monday after we arrived home from our job.  He has treated me for years knowing I don’t have Insurance.  I pay as I go with him.  Being faced with this huge obstacle it was my doctor’s recommendation that we go directly to the Oklahoma University Emergency Center in downtown Oklahoma City.  He cautioned that there may be a long wait before I would be seen and diagnostic tests could be performed.

Let me tell you….I was more scared of being turned away for lack of funds or no Insurance than I was about any Cancer diagnosis.  I was terrified of being labeled a “Dead Beat”.

My experience was, shall I say, Unusual!  Within minutes of approaching the reception desk I was called to be fitted with the newest fashion in bracelets.

Hospital admission bracelets

Hospital admission bracelets

Less than an hour later I was taken for an invigorating ride in a wheelchair to the Ultra-Sound department.  The young, petite, woman that was taking me to my  next destination was quick of step and had exceptional reflex timing as she avoided nurses with trays coming out of rooms.  Visitors and patients wandering the hallways.  Avoiding collisions with the nursing staff at their stations when leaving the area for their rounds.  The labyrinth of hallways and corridors she took me down were numerous.  I was informed of bumps to be encountered in the floor as we wended our way along.  I can only liken this exciting tour as “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” without the accident at the end.

After the Ultra-Sound was performed the technician told me she would be contacting a Radiologist to look over my pictures before I would be sent back to the waiting area of hospital admittance.

That ride was a bit more sedate.  The young man who was in charge of my tour was just as adept as the young lady was….just not as swift of foot.  He was very kind in his manner.

Once arriving at the waiting area of Admittance section I was greeted by the “Traveling Intake” technician.  I had seen her on the various floors and hallways I had recently been on.  With her mobile desk and computer she was getting information from patients and requesting their signatures.  She was now tending to me.  Getting me ready for whatever was next.

The Intake Technician had not quite finished with my information when we were beset by a nurse who stated I had to go “IMMEDIATELY” to the Breast Institute for a Mammogram and other testing.  Someone there had opened a slot for me to fit in.  I was informed that is was “Highly Unusual”.

Joe drove me to the next complex.  There I was given a very fancy designer top to replace my blouse.  I would be having a Mammogram.

Dressed in my designer top.

Dressed in my designer top.

I’ve NEVER had a Mammogram.  I was terrified of this.  I have heard all the horror stories of this pain inducing machine.  The woman that tended to me was very caring and she was informative.  She explained how it worked and told me what to expect.  Another experience of the day that was more terrifying in my mind than it actually was.

The Mammogram machine

The Mammogram machine

After the Mammogram was completed I was taken to another room to have another Ultra-Sound and biopsies performed on the lump in my breast as well as in a Lymph Node.  Joe was in the room with me during this procedure.

Getting biopsies of my breast tumor and Lymph Node

Getting biopsies of my breast tumor and Lymph Node

Right after the biopsy tissues were removed I was told by the Surgeon present (on the right) that my lump could be malignant.  Tests would be done on my tissue samples to verify this and determine what type of Cancer I have.

For any of you that have found a lump in your breast and are faced with this life changing event.  Those of  you with NO INSURANCE and feel you have no where to turn for help.  Get with your Family Doctor, or a doctor you trust, and ask what can be done for you.

THERE IS A WAY FOR YOU TO GET THE TREATMENT YOU DESERVE.  Let my story be a guide to you in getting the necessary help sooner than I have done.

I am in the process of waiting for the actual lab results as to which type of Cancer I have.  Will I be treated by Radiation, Chemotherapy, or Hormone Blockers before surgery is even considered.  I have been in consultation with a “Nurse Navigator” that is helping me to find the best Surgeon to determine my treatment.  She is working with my financial information to see which Grants I can use for my treatment.  And even if I have to go the route of being on Medicaid during my treatment.

Ask you Doctor or contact your local Health Department to find the FREE MAMMOGRAMS offered for Breast Cancer prevention and assessment.  Find your local Teaching Hospital and let them help you with getting a free or low cost Mammogram.  If you live in the Oklahoma City area you have access to the Free Mammograms at OU Breast Institute.  Call and make an appointment.

Leslie

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37 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristina Song
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 10:47:32

    Prayers and best wishes going your way. Very thoughtful and generous of you to share your story and information. I hope it helps others with prevention and treatment. Hugs and blessings, Kristina

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 10:28:59

      Thank you, Kristina. I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and leave a comment. Your prayers and best wishes are most welcome. It is my hope that someone in need will find my post and gain encouragement to find help. You are very generous and thoughtful to me and I want you to know that I appreciate you, very much.
      Leslie

      Reply

  2. Carrie
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 10:48:32

    Oh, Leslie! I can’t imagine going through this alone. I’m so glad you told Joe and are receiving care. I will be praying for you!

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 10:31:36

      Thank you, Carrie, for your touching and sweet comment. I appreciate your generous spirit, offering to pray for me. It warms my heart to know that you are doing what you can for me….and that is a great big boost and means a lot to me.
      Leslie

      Reply

  3. Norene Renie Schlader
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 12:04:52

    OH Leslie!! What a frightening thing for you! And Joe and your family too! When I had my heart attack my hubby had been retired for nine months. He had insurance but because it had been voted out of their contracts not long before to not insure spouses any longer when they were retired I was without insurance too. It is frightening! It’s a relief to learn that you weren’t put on a waiting list and it sounds like they are trying hard to figure out how to do the most good for you. I’m glad you finally spoke up! I so hope the news will be hopeful and helpful! You are important to so many people! I know you have lifted my spirits several times with your informative videos, silly videos and your on the road videos with you and Joe.
    We will think positive! Prayers too!
    With love,
    Renie

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 10:38:15

      Thank you, Norene, for your heartwarming comment on my blog post. Sounds as though you had gone through a terrible patch yourself. I hope you are doing well and have been able to receive the treatment you need for your heart. Insurance companies….BAH HUMBUG! If I knew I wouldn’t get all wound up and let go of the control over my potty mouth I might do a blog post about my thoughts on this Mafia like institution.

      You have made my heart happy, nay thrilled, knowing that I have been able to lift your spirits during your rough patches. I appreciate you letting me know this. Thank you for your offer of prayers for me. My heart is blessed because I have found you as a friend.
      Love you – Leslie

      Reply

  4. Jesska
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 12:31:52

    *hugs*

    Reply

  5. Jesska
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 12:32:05

    Thank you for writing this

    Reply

  6. Jesska
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 13:34:28

    And what I didn’t write, but meant to: I hope it all goes well for you.. I hope you get the best treatment, I hope the doctors and nurses are willing to explain things to you, I hope you are able to keep your positive outlook throughout the process, I hope the people who love you have time to be around you, I hope you have the opportunity to spend lots of time with all that paper and cardstock! 🙂

    Most of all, (I think, but you can decide for you), I wish you a speedy recovery! 🙂

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 10:40:57

      Thank you, Jesska. Your sweet and thoughtful comment has put a big smile on my face and in my heart. I appreciate you taking the time to express yourself in this manner. Please know that your words have comforted me. Now that I have more time at home I can make it over to your blog to see what adventures you are having in your life.
      Hugs to you – Leslie

      Reply

  7. Kim
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 14:34:02

    Bless you hunni. You are remarkably strong. This self diary should be published in news papers so many can take action they need. My love and prayers are with you and yours.

    Be strong hunni

    Kim

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 10:43:46

      Thank you, Kim, for your very kind comment. I appreciate your prayers and your love. Being held up by wonderful people, such as you, is a motivation to keep moving forward and doing my best.
      Hugs to you – Leslie

      Reply

  8. Paige
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 17:49:43

    Wishing you all the best. Stay positive and keep us updated. {{hugs}} I am so sad, I don’t know what to say.

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 10:48:26

      Thank you, Paige, for your sweet comment. I’m very sorry that I have been the cause of any distress in your world with my recent problem. I appreciate your wishes and your positive energy being sent my way. Please don’t be sad for me. I’m going to kick this thing in the butt and take names later 😀 If you know of someone that is in need of medical care and are feeling lost, you can help by letting them know they do have resources available to them.
      Hugs to you – Leslie

      Reply

  9. Jill Latina
    Jun 30, 2016 @ 20:01:29

    Hugs Leslie, I hope everything goes well. I will be thinking of you often

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 10:50:19

      Thank you, Jill, for your sweet and thoughtful comment. I appreciate you and your kind offer to think of me during this process. You have warmed my heart and lifted me up.
      Hugs – Leslie

      Reply

  10. aspot2stamp
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 00:31:48

    Thanks for sharing your story with us my dear sweet friend. I will pray for every person involved with your treatment and for you,Joe, and all your family. Know you will be in my heart thoughts and prayers. If you need a shoulder an ear someone to vent to I am here for you.just wanted to let you know that I love you . Take care
    Big (((((Hugs))))) and lots love

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 10:52:53

      Thank you, Shelly, for your love and your prayers. I have been very fortunate in finding you as my friend. I, more than likely, won’t be calling you to use your shoulder but I will be calling you to see how you are doing and learn more about what you are doing in your “Craft Cave” LOL. I love you greatly my friend.
      Leslie

      Reply

  11. DeeAnn
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 00:57:57

    I am a new subbie to your blog. I read your whole blog this month. You are such an inspiration to me. I am so sorry you are suffering through this. You are in my prayers and thoughts. I do know the fear of no insurance. My DH & I are using ObamaCare right now. I am having some health issues. I am still too terrified to go to the doctor because of the financial repercussions that would hurt our family. Last year we actually had to pay a penalty for ObamaCare even though we had it. My husband got a $1.00 raise at work and we were penalized with a tax bill even though we reported the raise. Fault of our old insurance company. I am not political at all. I don’t mean to sound like I am bashing. It is very hard and scary to understand the mechanics of health insurance. Please, please keep us updated. You are the sweetest person. I am so sorry you are having to go through this.

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 11:00:21

      Thank you, DeeAnn, for your sweet comment. I appreciate knowing that you are holding me in your thoughts and prayers. I will do the same for you, it seems that you are having difficulties of your own. Health Insurance is a nightmare that brings out the worst in me and my potty mouth. Whatever your health issues are, please find a doctor that will help you to navigate the system to get the care you need. There are resources built into the system that few even know about. You may get all of your medical care necessary to get you healed and not punish you anymore financially than you already are. Ask me, I know how surprised I was to find this out.
      Hugs to you – Leslie

      Reply

  12. veeccee
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 06:13:28

    Thank you for your strength, courage and honesty in sharing this with us. Prayers for you and family and for all those involved with helping and treating you.
    Know that you will have the strength to deal with whatever occurs in your life.
    May you find peace and joy in the coming years.

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 12:07:19

      Thank you, Veecee, for your words of comfort. I appreciate you taking the time to express your words to me and your prayers for my family. This may turn out to be an adventure, hopefully not a crazy one.
      Hugs to you – Leslie

      Reply

  13. Jann Gray
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 16:06:05

    Sweet Leslie….wish I could be there to give you a hug and hold your hand. Waiting for information is hard! Thinking there is nothing to be done about a situation is both hard and terrifying! So glad that you are with good people who will provide you good care!

    Know I will be praying for you…for Joe and your girls…and all the medical folks you will come in contact with while you are on this journey! Wisdom and peace!

    When we don’t know what the future holds, it is good to know the One who holds the future! You are His precious daughter and He loves you so very much! I’m asking Him to heal you, by whatever method He deems best…be it miracle or medical!

    We love you so very much! Try to rest…

    Loads of hugs sent your way!

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 12:22:32

      Jann, your comment has impressed the love I have received from you deeply in my heart. The Lord has blessed me so greatly with your friendship and I appreciate you very much. The work you are doing is so important to everyone you encounter – me included. You have helped me to gain a better relationship with the One, as you say. I appreciate you so very much and I love you immensely.
      Leslie

      Reply

  14. Jeanne Casella
    Jul 01, 2016 @ 16:07:34

    Leslie, what can I say? I wish you well. Rely on family and friends. Rely on us, your online friends. Take care of yourself. Listen to the doctors. Stay strong. Continue to create. Hugs to you.

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 03, 2016 @ 12:24:56

      Thank you, Jeanne, for your sweet and thoughtful comment. I appreciate your care and concern. I will continue to create through this process. I will listen to the doctors and allow them to do their work. You have uplifted me today and I am grateful to you.
      Leslie

      Reply

  15. Michelle Leary
    Jul 06, 2016 @ 22:00:36

    Hi Leslie, Your symptoms sound just like mine. My left breast was the same, they call this inflammatory breast cancer. However to date mine is herceptin2 driven not hormone driven. July 25th will be 5 years since my diagnosis. I am looking forward to that day. God bless you. If you ever need to talk to someone feel free to reach out to me and I can give you my phone number. God bless you and keep you and the family. Do allow the family to help you when you need it and get your rest and listen to your body. God bless you again.

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 09, 2016 @ 06:25:08

      Thank you, Michelle. I appreciate your advice, support, prayers, and love. I will hold you up in prayer, as your 5 year waiting and watching anniversary approaches, for a clean bill of health and no cancer cells remain in your body.
      Hugs – Leslie

      Reply

  16. Judy Lim
    Jul 06, 2016 @ 22:21:50

    Hi Leslie,
    Have started recently to be watching your card making tutorials on you-tube. Enjoyed them!

    Thank you so much for sharing so frankly with your currently diagnosed condition. You wrote such details for everyone to be aware of your developments. Very very helpful in deed. Admire you for being so honest and you’re
    definitely very brave. Salute you, Leslie.

    I’m from Singapore and my name is Judy Lim. Married to Michael Lim for 31 years and we have no children. In May 2008 I was diagnosed stage 2, grade A, breast cancer. Went through a lumpectomy, 4 cycles of chemotherapy (experienced all side effects of the treatment), 30 sessions of radiotherapy, 5 years of hormone therapy… it was a marathon! Through it all, my family and friends stood by me…with the most tender loving care and encouragement…including the medical team, they are just amazing. AND above all these support God heals and protects. No fear just trust!!! I’m very well today.

    Dear sister Leslie… press on. God your creator will take over…every concern…financially, physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually…He will provide sufficiently as He is in control. His grace is sufficient for you and your family.

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 13, 2016 @ 17:57:54

      Thank you, Judy, for sharing your story with me. Praise the Lord you have been cancer free ever since your last round of treatment for your breast cancer. Your personal journey is a testimony to the healing art of love, family, friends, and your medical team. All of them boosted by your faith in God and prayers. I greatly appreciation you sharing this with me.

      I’m sure you had many days when you wondered about the outcome. Going through all the rigors of drastic or uncomfortable side effects from the chemotherapy and the radiation. You are the strong one and I admire you for facing your battle with cancer.

      For anyone that comes to this blog post and scrolls down to the comments, they will find comfort in your story. Thank you for reaching out to me. You will encourage, not only me, many who are about to take their journey to wellness. I appreciate you.

      Hugs – Leslie

      Reply

  17. Liddia
    Jul 23, 2016 @ 11:41:57

    I put a message on your You Tube channel. I have also been thru this journey. God will be with you. I will be praying for you as you journey thru this time of your life.

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Jul 24, 2016 @ 09:28:22

      Thank you, Liddia. I have read your comment on my YouTube video and I appreciate you very much. It is odd how a person thinks they are the only one going through any huge life bump, only to find that others have been through it before them. It heartens me to know that you have been through this – worse than I have it – and have survived to live a fulfilling life. That gives me hope and I think that is the best thing about social media. Encouragement and support for others and being able to relate to others. There are a lot of bad things about social media as well.

      I appreciate your love, prayers, support, and encouragement. It is my hope that you received a lot of the same as you walked this scary and lonely path.
      Hugs to you my new friend – Leslie

      Reply

  18. kgarlans
    Aug 07, 2016 @ 12:25:58

    I stumbled onto your blog while looking for the answer to a craft question. I didn’t find the answer, but I love your writing style so I kept reading. I enjoyed the cancer planner post, but to be honest I was unable to finish this one before commenting. On Christmas Eve 2012, I got a cancer diagnosis completely out of the blue. In the morning I was fine. I went to bed with a fat leg and a death sentence. It was Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and spreading fast. By the time the Super Bowl rolled around, I had been through two surgeries and my first round of chemo.

    I’m ok now, I’ve been in remission for 3 years. But I’m only now beginning to process the trauma of cancer. Please know that you don’t always need the brave face. You will get through everything because your body somehow goes through the motions for you. And you’ll need that planner to keep it all straight. 🙂

    I lost everything to cancer. I was lawyer and now I’m on welfare. But I am still thankful for it all. Please be well, and know that there are a lot of resources out there to help you. If you want some help, just email me or reply and I can share my info with you. I wish you all the best. I know what you feel and I’m so sorry you have to do this.

    Reply

    • Message In A Fold
      Aug 07, 2016 @ 15:34:09

      Kgarlans, thank you for sharing your story with me. My goodness you have had it really rough. I appreciate you taking the time read my blog and leave your special comment. You have lost so much yet you reach out to offer help to someone you don’t know. Please know I don’t take your gift to me lightly.

      I don’t know what awaits me in the coming weeks. Right now it is waiting and one day at a time.

      Quite a number of other breast cancer survivors have contacted me with similar stories as yours, although the devastation was not so great. Each of them count the years of being cancer free. I have to focus on the end of this journey. When I, too, can be of supports to someone who finds themselves with this life altering disease.

      Any information you would like to pass on to me would be appreciated. Thank you again for your kindness and sharing of your strength.

      Leslie

      Reply

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