If She Had it to Do Over Again
One Woman’s Journey
( A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Story)
by Priscilla Miller
She sits at a table and dabs at the corner of her eye with a tissue. “I’m not really crying” she says. “ It’s just that my eyes water, since I’ve lost my eye lashes. Jeannie is a breast cancer patient who is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment for metastasized breast cancer of the liver.
When Jeannie Iser of Mancelona first discovered the tiny lump in her breast in 2004, she was stricken with the fear of cancer. She didn’t have medical insurance, so she waited and hoped that it would go away. Jeannie who was once energetic, started feeling exhausted all the time and admits “somehow I knew things weren’t right.”
At her daughter’s insistence she finally called to make an appointment to see a doctor, and was told to bring proof of medical insurance with her. By this time she had waited six months and the lump had reached the size of a golf ball! “ I didn’t know what to do, I felt so hopeless” she says. “without insurance I couldn’t get a mammogram necessary to diagnose the disease.”
It was then that Jeannie’s sister Bonnie, in desperation started making some phone calls.” One of those calls was made to Dee Lynch, co founder of the newly formed Alden High Tea for Breast Cancer. The first high tea had just been held a few months prior to Bonnie’s call, and not many people knew much about the organization. Word of mouth had reached Bonnie, “that the high tea had free mammograms available for uninsured individuals living in Antrim County.”
After making sure it was o.k. with Jeannie to contact her, Dee called and immediately arranged for Jeannie to have a mammogram. The mammogram confirmed the fact that there was a mass in her breast and Jeannie needed further medical treatment.
With the High Tea for Breast Cancer still in it’s infancy, Dee contacted the Health Department of Northwest Michigan (formerly Northwest Michigan Community Health Agency) and they became involved in arranging for Jeannie’s followup medical care. She underwent several biopsies and then a partial mastectomy, followed by months of chemotherapy treatments.
When a blood test revealed that the cancer had spread to her liver, Jeannie was shocked. No one had ever told her that when breast cancer is not treated early enough, it can spread to other parts of the body.
A visit to her family physician proved to be particularly upsetting. She was still emotionally reeling from the news that the cancer had spread, when this doctor basically told her she should get her life in order and asked if she had life insurance?
It’s been almost three years now, but with the love and support of her family she continues to fight her battle. The chemo appears to be doing it’s job, the lesions in her liver have shrunk in size. Jeannie remains optimistic and says, “ the whole process is a scary thing but If, I had gotten a mammogram when I first noticed the lump I probably wouldn’t have cancer in my liver today and I’d have been finished with chemo months ago.
Her message to anyone who discovers a breast abnormality is “don’t make excuses. Don’t say I don’t have time, take time! Call and make an appointment for a mammogram today. If I had to do it all over again, I would not have let fear keep me from being diagnosed sooner.”
As a result of Dee Lynch’s initial phone call to the health department regarding Jeannie’s followup medical treatment, the Antrim County High Tea for Breast Cancer Prevention joined in partnering with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan, and Munson Hospital Breast Care Services in providing mammogram screenings for all uninsured Antrim County residents.
To make an appointment for a free mammogram call the Health Department of Northwest Michigan at 1-800-432-4121 and for other health care information call Teresa Sington at 231-533-8670