Meet the people who are helped by your dollars
Your generosity has helped hundreds of individuals struggling with breast cancer. Here are some of their stories.
In February, 2011, Elizabeth and her mom decided on a mother/daughter outing: they would go for a mammogram. Elizabeth, a clinical psychologist, was 41 and this would be her first test. Much to their surprise, she was the one who got the dreaded phone call.
After a biopsy she was told that the cancer was excessive but not invasive, and that a lumpectomy would not be sufficient. Although she was scheduled for a single mastectomy she opted for a double, because “I didn’t want to go through this again,”she explains.
After surgery, Elizabeth was referred to the Institute for Health and Healing, a To Celebrate Life grantee, for lymph node drainage therapy. “I had all these drains in me and was feeling very vulnerable, but the session was very relaxing with nice lighting and music,” she says. Elizabeth believes that the therapy made a significant difference in her recovery. Her lymphatic issues have resolved and she has returned to work. “Thank you for your organization, it really did wonders.”
During a self breast exam, Valeria felt some knots that concerned her. She knew she needed a mammogram but having lost her job, she couldn’t afford to go for the test. As she talked among her friends, someone told her about Mammography Day at the Southeast Clinic, a To Celebrate Life grantee. Valeria contacted Veronica Shepard, the Director, and she was scheduled for the test.
“They treated me so well,” she recalls. “It was the first time I had a mammogram where I didn’t feel like a piece of meat.”
Since she had such a positive experience, Valeria makes it a point to be screened once a year. Fortunately, she has not been diagnosed with breast disease.
“Now I refer other women to Veronica when they need help, she is full of resources. And it’s not just about the mammogram,” says Valeria. “They give a good class on how to do the self breast exam. I thought I was doing it right, but found out I wasn’t. I just thank God every day that I got connected to Veronica, she’s helped me in so many ways.”
Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She had gone for a mammogram, and the technician was out of the room for a long time. She began to wonder, is something up? “They said something was there,” recalls Nancy, and she was sent for a biopsy. Nancy had a single mastectomy with no follow-up treatment. She opted not to have reconstruction.
“I’m single, and I don’t have a relationship, so it doesn’t bother me,” she says.
Nobody ever mentioned special bras to Nancy. “I stuffed my bra to make it look like I had something,” she says. But one day, she was walking down the street and passed the office of HERS Beast Cancer Foundation, and curiosity got the best of her. She went in and learned about their We Support, You Survive program and was fitted with a bra and prosthesis. “The bra makes you feel better about yourself, and your clothes fit better,” the survivor says. “The only thing you don’t have is cleavage,” she laughs.
As a young, uninsured woman, Silvia qualified for a free mammogram and biopsy through Breast Cancer Connections’ Early Detection Program (a To Celebrate Life grantee). When her test results came back positive, BCC staff helped Silvia enroll in a treatment program.
“They helped me emotionally and explained what my diagnosis meant,” she says. “I felt much more knowledgeable when speaking to my doctor.” A single mother with two young boys, ages 6 and 9, Silvia didn’t know how to tell her children about her diagnosis. When her hair started to fall out her son was very surprised and told her to cover her head at all times.
So she checked out a special book at BCC. “The book helped me explain to him that this was part of my treatment but that my hair was going to grow back.” Then both kids became much more accepting and she felt comfortable dropping them off or picking them up from school.
Silvia is the first in her family to be diagnosed with breast cancer and she is helping to educate them. “I’ve shared a lot of information with my sisters who are back in Mexico. I tell them that they need to check their breasts and to never ignore any lumps,” she says. A Santa Clara resident, Silvia is grateful to the Gabriella Patser Program. “After leaving BCC I felt a lot more secure knowing that I wasn’t alone.”
When she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer in 2010 at the age of 34, Marilyn was shell-shocked. A recent transplant from Texas, she was living in Petaluma at the time. Her friends asked if she was taking advantage of any of the programs that were available to her. That’s when she began receiving meals from Ceres Project, a Foundation grantee.
Marilyn moved to Marin County and joined a support group at the Marin Cancer Center, which also receives funds from To Celebrate Life. “Diane Brandon pointed me in the right direction,” says Marilyn, who participated in guided imagery and massage programs that were offered through the Cancer Center.
Still exhausted from her treatment, she didn’t have the stamina to cook so she opted for food delivery from Meals of Marin, another Foundation grantee. “When the food showed up at my door it was like the angels delivering it,” says Marilyn.
“All of these programs were so important to my progress. It’s critical for everyone to know how they touch people’s lives.”
Cancer was the furthest thing from her mind when Liz felt something squishy in her left breast. She was busy working as a medical receptionist and considering a career change, not to mention caring for her 3-year-old daughter.
A friend at work was undergoing diagnostic tests for breast cancer which got Liz to thinking…she’d never had a mammogram. Maybe it was time, she’d just turned 41. She went for the test and a flurry of diagnostics followed revealing that she had an
aggressive, fast-growing tumor.
Fortunately, Liz had health insurance but with a high deductible, so she knew it was going to be a financial challenge for her family. After her first month of chemo, Liz went on disability leave. Her husband, who is self-employed, was weathering the ups and down of the economy, yet they didn’t qualify for assistance. Liz began to wonder how to transition from disability to a new job without losing her health coverage. That’s when she was referred to the Marin Center for Independent Living, a To Celebrate Life grantee.
“Mary Mathews worked with me to figure out how to go from disability to Cobra to a new employer without a lapse in coverage. She was very helpful,” says Liz.
MCIL also helped the family with a month’s rent as Liz had exhausted her savings. Now Liz feels so much better. “ I exercise, I’ve improved my diet, manage my life better, and do the things I need to do in order to be healthy.”