Health & Fit: ‘I Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer At 27—And Planned Parenthood Saved My Life’ - Ben Stiller revealed to have been diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago - PressFrom - US
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Health & Fit ‘I Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer At 27—And Planned Parenthood Saved My Life’

22:05  18 october  2019
22:05  18 october  2019 Source:   womenshealthmag.com

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I first felt the lump in my right breast while I was in the shower. Normally, I use a loofah in the shower, but for some reason, I grabbed bar soap. That’s when I felt it: something like a pebble in the bottom of my right breast.

a person posing for the camera: © Jaime Benner "When she sat down in the booth across from me, I just looked at her and said it plainly: 'I have cancer.'"

I don’t know how I knew immediately that it was cancer. After all, I was just 27 and without a medical degree, but I guess we know our bodies best. And it turns out, I was right.

It was May 11, 2013, a Saturday, when I found it. I called my doctor’s office that Monday and subsequently freaked out when I was told it’d be three to four weeks before they could see me. I’ve always been a relatively calm person, but I knew I needed to get this checked immediately. That’s when I turned to Planned Parenthood.

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I’ve always thought of Planned Parenthood as simply the doctor’s office it is: I went there at 16, when my mom brought me to get birth control. I went there for annual exams in college, when I was a broke student. I went there in upstate New York, when it was just a comfortable place to get treated, just a doctor’s office, just an organization that had always been there for me.

In 2013, Planned Parenthood became more than a place where I could get routine health care. It became the place that literally saved my life.

When the physician at Planned Parenthood felt the lump, they said it needed to be looked at more and sent me to a radiologist the next day for a mammogram. The results came in on that Wednesday, but the radiologist's office said they were inconclusive. The doctor at Planned Parenthood didn’t accept that: “No no no," they said, "This is something serious.” They pushed for me, and got me an appointment at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care Clinic right away for more tests.

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There, I had three more mammograms. I focused on getting myself to every appointment and letting the doctors poke and prod me in order to find out some answers. I was able to stay calm through that process, until I walked back into Elizabeth Wende on Thursday to get my results. They brought me into a dark room, made to seem serene with candles, and the doctor held my hand while telling me that they were 99.99 percent sure I had breast cancer. They wanted to do a needle biopsy and would tell me about the remaining .1 percent the next morning.

I had gone to the clinic with a friend and when I walked out, she asked me what happened. “I don’t want to talk about it yet,” I told her. “I just want a cheeseburger.”

We drove to Red Robin, and when she sat down in the booth across from me, I just looked at her and said it plainly: “I have cancer.”

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I hadn’t even cried yet from the shock, but she started crying immediately. We’ve been friends since seventh grade and it was in this sobering moment that the shock set in. Oh my god, we thought, we’re in our twenties, and I have cancer.

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My breast cancer was stage 3B, meaning it had already spread from the tumor into my lymphatic system. I would need both my breasts removed as well as chemotherapy and radiation. I was told that had I waited a day, it would have progressed to stage 4, the most advanced stage of breast cancer, and I don’t know if I would have won that fight. But what I do know is that Planned Parenthood would have helped me with the fight. It was the doctor at Planned Parenthood who pushed for more conclusive results, who knew it was serious, who helped me get the answers I didn’t necessarily know I needed to stay alive.

Before that day, I had never noticed anything wrong with my body. But after days of mammograms that squished my breasts as flat as crepes, I could feel the lump growing, agitated, first into a marble and then, eventually, to the size of a golf ball. The doctor said it took up the majority of my breast. I had my double mastectomy on June 11, 2013—exactly a month after I first felt the lump—and started chemo about three weeks after my surgery.

At the start of all of this, I had just left a job, and I had to undergo a 90-day waiting period to join my new company’s insurance plan. That meant I didn’t have health insurance. Of course, prior to finding the pebble-sized lump that changed my life, I was young and felt indestructible, so I didn’t start a new plan in between jobs. We all think we’ll be just fine, and then your worst nightmare becomes reality.

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My worst nightmare didn’t concern what would happen to me, necessarily, but what would happen to my daughter, Emma, who was 2 and a half when this all began, and my sister, 16 then, who I raised after our mom passed away in 2009. I was all that they had and I needed to go into survival mode for my family. I had no idea how I would afford treatment without insurance.

That’s where Planned Parenthood came through for me again. The receptionist told me to give her all my documents and she was able to get me on Medicaid. I didn’t have to deal with the additional stress of going to Social Services or trying to figure out insurance while also being strong for myself, balancing doctors appointments and the physical and emotional changes that became my new reality.

Looking back now, I know I would have depleted my savings within the first month and a half of treatment had I not had help. One shot I would get after every chemo session was $7,000 a syringe. My surgeries, including the mastectomy, plus follow up things like spacers to stretch my skin for implants, totaled more than $80,000. If I had to pay that out of pocket, I would have lost my house and my car, and I would probably still be drowning in debt—if I had even been able to get the treatments I needed to live.

I finished chemo on Halloween 2013, and I painted my face like a sugar skull while getting my last treatment, taking advantage of my bald head. There is always some lightness to the darkness.

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On April 4, 2014, at 28, I received my implants, and my cancer journey was technically done, but my story will never be over. Even though I went to other hospitals and specialists for my treatment after that first appointment at Planned Parenthood, they checked in on me the whole time. The receptionist who initially helped me kept the Planned Parenthood doctor on my chart, so they got all my records and results and would call me after tests and appointments. It was great, like a friend reaching out, but I wasn’t surprised. I think that’s part of what Planned Parenthood is: caring. They create a bond with people, and that’s why I didn’t hesitate when they asked me to share my story.

Last year, Planned Parenthood asked to share my story on a billboard near my hometown in upstate New York. A lot of people thanked me for putting my neck out there like that and women started to share their own stories about how Planned Parenthood helped them. To me, it just made sense. I thought, if putting my face on a billboard for six months can make a difference, what else can I do?

a man standing on top of a grass covered field: planned parenthood © Jaime Brenner planned parenthood

That’s why I helped start Planned Parenthood’s Cancer Survivors Network to call on the government to protect Planned Parenthood. As soon as I heard that “defunding” Planned Parenthood was even on the table, I reached out to the women I know there to see how I could help.

I really think this network will make a difference, because we all have a great story to tell. For women who may have to deal with a diagnosis in the future, to have a safety net or someone to reach out to is immeasurable. I’m in touch with my local oncology unit and visit younger women when they first come in. I’m able to hold their hands, tell them that Biotene mouthwash is the best to use when your treatment causes sores in your mouth, and that yes, even your eyelashes and eyebrows may fall out, so be prepared. Nobody tells you what cancer is going to be like, but with this network, we can share the stories of women who have survived their diagnoses, and we can give them hope, showing the world the difference Planned Parenthood could make, a difference it can only make if it’s still there.

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