(#23 in a series)
From every wound,
there is a scar,
And every scar tells a story.
A story that says, I survived...
“My worst fear of getting breast cancer was just about to become reality … I had a gut feeling about it.” It was quite by chance that when rubbing the skin along the edge of her bra one weekend, 41 year-old Melissa Stukenborg Paskvan felt something strange.
Melissa lost her father to melanoma, and her family history includes a maternal great aunt who had breast cancer. Asked if she was aware of triple-negative breast cancer before her own diagnosis, she replied, “No, I never heard of it. I didn’t know about different types of breast cancers.”
The toll of cancer and treatment hits cancer patients hard. Melissa lost her job of 20 years after an extended medical leave, and her second and third jobs also “faded away,” as she put it. Cancer has crippled her financially, she says, draining the family’s savings and adding to their debt.
High school sweethearts, Melissa and her husband have been married for 19 years and have a nine-year old son. At diagnosis, Melissa had health insurance with a $1,500 deductible. A few months later, her deductible was raised to $3,000 and, in early 2011 to $10,000. A “pass the hat” collection raised $2,600 to help cover some deductibles and co-pays. Eventually, her husband left his job of 18 years for one that offered a better policy.
Now 44, Melissa blogs about her experiences and is involved in many breast cancer awareness events. She helped put together a private triple-negative breast cancer support group on Facebook and, together with her oncology nurse and the mother of another triple-negative breast cancer survivor, formed a support group.
“We need to keep triple-negative breast cancer awareness in the forefront, for it is striking younger women, especially African-Americans. It is often undetected by mammograms, so please do your monthly breast self exams and know your body … if you suspect a lump, don’t wait,” advises Melissa. “Consult your doctor immediately… early detection is your best defense in beating triple-negative breast cancer.”