Stephanie is a 2-time survivor from Chicago. Her patient navigator helped her apply for a state-sponsored insurance plan that covered her breast cancer treatment.
I’ve always believed that where the mind goes, the body follows. So when I learned I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma in my early 20s, I fought with my entire spirit. With the help of my family and my doctors, I survived.
Nearly 25 years later, I found myself struggling to take in the news my physician had just delivered. Two tiny growths shaped like question marks had shown up on an MRI of my right breast. An earlier mammogram had missed them, but now the question they seemed to ask had been answered. My cancer had come back.
“What will happen to my son?” I asked my doctor as I tried to hold back tears. “He depends on me…and if I can’t work, I can’t earn.”
“Let’s focus on you first,” he wisely said.
Still, I felt terrified. Laurence hadn’t yet completed his first year of college. He had a work-study job and was good with money, but he’d surely need my support to finish his degree.
As we reviewed my treatment options, I began to think that whatever happened next, my son would take his cues from me. If I stayed positive, he would, too.
So would my co-workers at the salon, where I had worked nearly five years. I thought of my wonderful clients, women who might someday face cancer themselves.
Before leaving the doctor’s office that day, I decided I would become an example for everyone I knew, looking good and staying strong while I fought my disease. But there were other challenges ahead.
Because of my earlier cancer, my treatment options were limited. And then I discovered that my health insurance wouldn’t cover all the services I would need.
That’s when I found the American Cancer Society’s patient navigator at the University of Illinois at Chicago Cancer Center. She made me feel she would move heaven and earth to find the resources I needed. My navigator helped me apply for a state-sponsored insurance plan that covered my care. She kept in touch, coming to visit on Wednesdays when I received chemotherapy. Her encouragement made it even easier to view cancer as a speed bump and not the end of the road for me.
Today I’m in good health and looking forward to Laurence’s graduation. The gift inside my second cancer is the opportunity to help others. With my mother, my friends and Diane by my side, I never fought alone, but I realize that many others have no choice. So I host a small support group for women with cancer and I continue to refer people to the American Cancer Society, because I know that having the support of a navigator can make all the difference.