About Kimmy‎ > ‎

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis

I like to call this section...
 
"Don't worry, you're only 25"
 
My boyfriend found a small lump in my left breast in feb 2011. We were living on top of a mountain in big Bear, CA at the time and I had a job but was not covered by health insurance. That week I went to the local public health center (always a joy). The 'doctor' had problems feeling the lump and i'll admit, it was hard to pinpoint it exactly. She attributed it to my menstrual cycle and followed up with "don't worry, you're only 25, it's not cancer!" She gave me a list of places down the mountain that I could have an ultrasound done. $150/scan, $150 to read me the results. I didn't have that kind of money laying around & i was not given any sense of urgency from the 'doc' so time went on.

fast forward 6 months. The lump got bigger & more painful. I struggled playing on my summer softball league because it hurt so bad to run. I like to call this section...
 
"Don't worry, cancer doesn't hurt!"
 
I looked up my symptoms online and thought I had a cyst. When i finally passed the wait-period at work i was able to get HMO health insurance. I immediately made an appointment with a Big Bear doctor. It's probably necessary for me to point out why i'm specifying 'Big Bear' doctor here- just picture small town, on top of a mountain, and limited resources. Once again I heard the classic words "you're too young, I think it's an infection or a cyst." Luckily he referred me to an insurance covered imaging center for an ultrasound. There was still no sense of urgency and Unfortunately it took another month or so for me to get an appointment. 

Shortly after completing the ultrasound I received a phone call from the Imagining Center requesting me to return for a mammogram. Before the drive up the mountain, i drove back and completed the mammogram. The doctor met with me to discuss the images and prepared me for the worst.. breast cancer. Although he wasn't sure until a biopsy was done, he was almost positive that's what it was. Talk about devastating. Talk about longest wait of my life. I went in that week for the biopsy and the day before Thanksgiving 2011 my doctor called me with the news...

Doctor:
 Hi Kim I got the results back on your biopsy.
Kim: Okay... ?
Doctor: You definitely have cancer.
Kim: OK, do you know what stage it's in?
Doctor: We won't know until it's removed. I am going to get it approved by your insurance and then schedule you with a surgeon in Victorville.
Kim: Alright, what type of cancer is it?
Doctor: Moderately Differentiated Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Does breast cancer run in your family?
Kim: Nope, I'm the first.
Doctor: Wow! Are you ok with this?
Kim: Well I've been preparing myself for 2 weeks so yeah I'm okay. (I mean, what kind of a question is that??)

That was the entire conversation...over the phone...and then I went snowboarding. I mean, what else could I do? 
I didn't hear back from any other doctors or offices for one whole week.
Just some advice- don't get cancer before the holidays. No one works , They just take vacations. They definitely don't want to answer all your questions.

Treatment

My doctor had scheduled me to meet with a surgeon at a community hospital in the small desert town of Victorville. Needless to say, I cancelled that appointment immediately. I fought endlessly with my doctor and my insurance about going to a real hospital, in a city, with an oncology team. I can't even describe my frustration when both my doctor and my IPA said, "This surgeon is confident he can help you." i'm sorry, NO! you know nothing about cancer you aren't touching me!! thank goodness I'm young, opinionated, and don't enjoy being taken advantage of. I spent several days finding loopholes in my insurance wait periods for 'changing your doctor.' It turns out, if you move you can change your doctor and if it's 'urgent' this can go into effect immediately (instead of the 30-day wait period). So, i 'moved' (AkA: changed my address to a family member's address). I knew I wanted to go to Loma Linda University Medical Center, which was about 1 hour from my house and an excellent hospital for cancer research & treatment. I met with their patient navigator and found out that they accept my HMO insurance as long as it is affiliated with Vantage IPA. I found a local doctor that was in fact teamed up with Vantage and I made my first/only appointment there. I pled my case to my insurance for The doctor change.. it was accepted! The doctor was very understanding of my needs and immediately referred me to my hospital of choice: Loma Linda!

Several tests later (MRI, CT, Whole body bone scan) it was determined that I was at stage 4. The Cancer had spread from my left breast to the lymph nodes, down to my liver, and bones (small spots on my pelvic bone, a couple ribs, and spine). My surgeon wanted to start immediately with chemotherapy & To this day, I've yet to have any breast surgery (and I'm thrilled!). I had genetic testing (BRCA) and it came back negative for the breast cancer gene. It does not run in my family and thankfully I have nothing to pass on. My Brain MRI was also cancer free & my ECHOs showed my heart is healthy. I had my power port placed in my chest & started chemotherapy on January 23, 2012 (exactly 2 months after my diagnosis).

Young man's breast cancer pink ribbon tattoo on his side. He got it to support his girlfriend's battle with Stage 4 breast cancer.

My boyfriend, Russell, surprised me with this 
breast cancer pink ribbon tattoo after my diagnosis. 
best boyfriend ever.


As you can see, "Don't worry, you're only 25" & 
"Don't worry, cancer doesn't hurt" are myths!
Cancer doesn't discriminate!
Comments