I am writing to thank you and your organization for helping me in a most dire time of need. In January of 2008 I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductile Carcinoma in the Right Breast. I can remember waking and feeling this thing in my breast that felt like a tree, and knowing that it was not right. I didn’t understand at that time the anatomy of the breast and that this cancer was moving through the ducts which are configured exactly like a tree coming out from the body. Invasive is the key word. It means that the cancer is invading into adjacent tissue. My blessings abound as it was diagnosed in time for it to be removed totally and I only had one affected lymph node. So, compared to my sisters in treatment, one of whom just finished her 5th round of chemo, something people put so lightly in words, but which is living hell (people simply cannot fathom what it entails even witnessing it, it is in the experience itself that the true meaning comes through – and through which the true heroes of the world evolve!), I was very blessed to have only radiation therapy, to which I went kicking and screaming. In spite of many remedies I was literally out of this world mentally & physically for two years after, and am still not right. Experts now say that the side effects of these treatments take 10 years to work out of the body. My colon was my weak spot in my body, and so, I ended up losing part of my colon, and having an open stomach wound from the surgery for 6 months, requiring dialing skilled wound care, and then a hernia after that. I can tell you that two and a half years later, I am still in shock, and still, every time I feel a twinge in that area (normal after surgery) I panic. I wish now that I could have some sort of counseling to help me “get over it” and move on.
I remember being in the oncologists’ office after diagnosis and literally crumbling as I realized that my financial world was going to fall apart. I felt like I could easily end up in a state nursing home or homeless at the age of 60. How could I give my energy to fighting this disease when I was so consumed with worry over my finances, simple things like paying for utilities, my house payment, my insurances, things that we all take for granted as we work and pay for them? It was pretty overwhelming. I was swept into a social workers’ office and set up with Medicare replacement that would cover my therapy. That was a Godsend. Now all I had to do was show up for treatment, survive it, survive the cancer, and figure out how to pay my bills in the process. The latter was a huge concern.
During the next year I was literally unable to do anything for myself. I look at women around me and wonder how they do it. For me to just get up, shower, eat, make treatment, and sleep and keep my home up was overwhelming. My bills were piling up and I was worried about staying in my home. By this time I was deathly ill from radiation therapy. How could I pay my bills? I had exhausted every resource available to me.
I remember calling a popular cancer survivor network and being given the name of the United Breast Cancer Foundation. I immediately went online and started researching, seeing the testimonials of other survivors (one becomes a survivor the day of diagnosis, in the “survivor’s club”), and reached out to this life saving organization. I say life saving because UBCF literally is. I was only getting a small slice of the picture. However it was what I needed. I filled out an application and sent it to UBCF. I had house payments past due, insurances set to expire, utilities piled up, all kinds of financial issues and it was all I could do to get to treatment and come home and sleep, that is all one can do after treatment. I worked with Jennifer Spina at UBCF and she helped me to meet these financial needs. It was a laborious task for her. I understand that these folks volunteer their time and work from home. Well, I thought I was working with someone in an office of a huge organization. She was so professional and giving and compassionate. She took on my problems as her own. She did most of the work instead of making me jump through hoops. No, I did not get everything I needed or wanted because funds were so limited in these hard economic times. However, the budgeting that was done to accomplish some kind of meaningful assistance was pretty phenomenal. Instead of saying that they could not afford to do this, these folks came up with what they could afford to do and it helped me so hugely to meet my financial needs. In another way it helped me also: to know that someone cared enough to reach out and do this blessing for me. It made me feel like I deserved to survive and that things would be ok.
If there was anything that I wished, it would be that this organization and others like it would have better funding. There are so many folks in need and Cancer is a killer. It is not fun. To be able to fight with some support and help was pretty overwhelming to me. After I kind of half way got back on my feet, I researched some of UBCF’s other activities. They run camps for survivors, educational programs including integrative medicine without which I truly believe that I would not have survived treatment as well as I did; and have a truly all-encompassing approach to helping those diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Unfortunately, they are so understaffed and underfunded that these other activities and areas in which they are working so hard are going unnoticed in large part and are not reaching the clients. More funding is needed. This is a really inspired and well-rounded effort and could be expanded so much if fully funded. I pray that this happens for UBCF. I would have loved to have been able to come to one of their camps for survivors, and learn how to take care of myself as a survivor. I still have this need today. There are so many others like me or more in need. It is amazing to me that these programs exist and are available to someone like me. I am just one person. I can’t imagine how many lives you have touched. You are angels, to me.
Thank you so much for the help with the nuts and bolts part of my survival during this time. I am enormously grateful to you for your responsive, caring and thorough assistance. I can even remember your negotiating payments for me on an insurance matter, I believe, to help me catch up, and on my mortgage. I literally could not comprehend and retain information to complete this task, due to the side effects of the radiation therapy. I am forever in your debt, Jennifer, and the United Breast Cancer Foundation! Thank you for helping me in my time of need. I pray that you are able to continue this work and expand it.
With kindest regards, Jacki F, Breast Cancer Survivor