Thursday, October 01, 2009

It bears repeating

Two years ago I wrote a post about a friend, and why you should do breast self-exams. Last year I linked to the post, and wrote about friends I'd made who were living with and living through cancer. This year I thought I might mention a resource, in case you take my advice to do self-exams and then end up needing insurance to deal with something you found. Oh, how I hope you will find nothing wrong and need no assistance. I also hope you have good health insurance. But if any of that is not true, there are resources available, including the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. The NBCCEDP helps low-income, uninsured, and underinsured women gain access to breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services. These services include:

  • Clinical breast examinations.
  • Mammograms.
  • Pap tests.
  • Pelvic examinations.
  • Diagnostic testing if results are abnormal.
  • Referrals to treatment.
In Oregon, you can contact the state's Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. For resources in other states, check out CDC's NBCCEDP web site.

In the mean time, here is my friend Stephanie's story.

When I moved to Rhode Island in 2000, I left a job I loved and a close group of friends, in a city I'd come to see as home. Chris is an academic, so he made friends at work, but I struggled to meet people in a place where most of the residents are natives. Almost everyone I met had lived in Rhode Island their entire lives, had the same friends they'd had since before kindergarten, and though they were kind, it was clear that they were not looking to make new friends. I really struggled to find friends, and in the end one of my favorite people in Rhode Island did not even live in the state.

Stephanie Williams was the girlfriend of Dan, one of Chris's colleagues. Every other weekend she would take the train from New York City to visit Dan. A journalist, Stephanie was interesting, funny and smart. Some of my favorite moments in Rhode Island were spent in the company of Stephanie and Dan. Chris and I liked them enough that we we saw them in New York too. We went to NYC regularly to see family, and we'd meet up for brunch or pizza.

Shortly before we met, Stephanie was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 30. One of the things that impressed me about Stephanie was that despite dealing with cancer (surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation), she was always interested in other people. Maybe because she was a journalist, she tended to look out into the world rather than retreat into her own pain.

Stephanie fought her cancer for three years. She ultimately died, but not before fulfilling a dream to write a novel. Her book, Enter Sandman was published in 2004, the summer she died. Stephanie's story, including her struggle with cancer and her decision to use her limited time to write a book, was featured in a number of national and local publications. She herself wrote an article for Glamour that was published after her death. Her alma mater wrote a a very nice article about her.

It is terrible that Stephanie died so young, but you can do something to help ensure that you and your loved ones do not. Please do monthly self breast exams, and please get an annual exam every year. This is a great start for young women, especially those of us who are generally healthy and do not see ourselves at being at risk for cancer. If you do not know how to do a monthly exam, click here. Most insurance covers annual exams with either a very low or no copayment. It is more than worth the $10 doctor fee and an hour of your time. I know you are busy, but really, this seems like a good use of time. I hope the men in my readership will urge their loved ones to do these exams as well.

I thought to tell you this because October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but you should do an exam every month. Even though I admit that I have not been so good about this in the past, I'll promise if you do too.


  1. I had a mammogram in August and a breast u/s in September. And I check too.

  2. Nora you should check out Sara's story and journey with breast cancer. She just past away on Sept.22
    She was young and pregnant when she found out and died just days after Chloe was born.
    The Sullivans