This is from my wife Christine, sharing her experience with breast cancer and what we learned from that experience.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I appreciate the community Patch highlighting the issue that faces more than a quarter million women in the U.S. every year.
My husband Hank is running for legislature in the 48th District, and he is frequently asked about health care. We often ask politicians to speak on issues in the abstract – issues they know intellectually but may not have felt personally.
As a breast cancer survivor, I can tell you, Hank understands health care access in a very personal way.
First, my experience demonstrates the need to take charge of your health care. When I first received a mammogram, I was told there might be something, but that I could come back in the future. I have to admit, I procrastinated. Perhaps simply because without a family history, I thought I wasn’t at risk. Finally, my daughter encouraged me to go back for a follow up.
I was fortunate. We caught the cancer before it spread and in the end, it was removed. I’ve been cancer free for more than a decade.
Second, Hank and I learned the value of medical innovation. Even though my cancer had not spread, I was asked if I wanted chemotherapy to further reduce the risk of recurrence. Having seen friends deal with the physical toll of chemo, I was nervous. Ultimately, my doctor said something that made all the difference. She said that chemo would help reduce the risk, but if the cancer did come back, we’d have new treatments to deal with that cancer.
Thanks to innovation – the knowledge-based economy we are so proud of in the Northwest – I avoided chemotherapy and I am thankful today for that option.
I decided not to have chemotherapy only after my doctor's approval and it was a critical part of my success that I trusted my doctor to give me good advice and options.
For women concerned about breast cancer I encourage you to take charge of your health care. Don’t be afraid of what you might find. Be thankful for the doctors and innovators we have that can turn that fear into hope and, ultimately, survival.
And since I’ve had breast cancer, it is a message I give to my daughter to return the favor for her encouragement of me.
That is my story, and I’m happy to share it in the hopes that other women will take the steps that can save their lives.
It is a story that Hank was an important part of, and one he will carry with him to Olympia when making decisions about women’s health care.