The cost of dealing with Triple Positive Breast Cancer and getting on with my life…
I recently saw a post with an image that struck me and I wanted to re create that image to bring awareness. The original image noted that a study published by the American Health & Drug Benefits compared insurance claims from various women who had undergone breast cancer treatments. For a woman diagnosed with stage II/III like myself, it was listed as an average cost seen within the first year after receiving diagnosis as $82,121 - $129,387.
I found this interesting so I decided to look at all my claims since October 2017 when I was first diagnosed. In the last 14 months, my insurance company has been billed $432,288.42 and that doesn’t include prescriptions they paid for. Just one of the prescriptions in the picture of my chest costs $11,423.56 a month or $137,082.72 a year!
If you break it down:
$214,392.29 was billed from my Oncologist. This includes all of my IV chemo and doctor visits with my Oncologist. Jason and I used to joke each time I went in for my four different rounds of chemo (that took an entire day) that I was going in to get a new Toyota Tacoma because that is about what each round of those costs. We would just dream on the color we could get.
30 rounds of radiation came in second highest at $133,546.40. Each day for six weeks I had to go to the radiation oncologist for those treatments.
I had multiple surgeries which included two lumpectomies, a bilateral mastectomy and a hysterectomy that came in at $71,820.73.
My genetic testing was $6,808.00 and I had two emergency room visits that totaled $2,246.
After my bilateral mastectomy, I went for a few weeks of Physical Therapy which came in at $1,700.
My insurance company also paid for me some new prosthetics and some special bras for $808, which I rarely wear because to be honest, while I miss my boobs, I don’t miss wearing a bra everyday.
And lastly I had a few miscellaneous doctor visits including visiting plastic surgeons that cost $967.
How I manage… Many people ask me, “How are you doing?” and I reply with, “I am doing great.” And sometimes I get in response to that “No really, how are you doing?”
I have never let cancer become me. Yes I had a very aggressive cancer but it NEVER had me. It did not control my daily thoughts and my life. I have always been a positive person; the glass is half full kinda gal. There are so many things to continue be thankful for in life even when you are in the middle of the worst of yours. For one, I am still alive. If it had not been for the dedication and perseverance of Dr. Dennis Slamon who helped develop the chemo Herceptin that saved my life I would be on my way out. Before Herceptin, 90% of the women who were diagnosed with the type of breast cancer I had died within two years of their diagnosis. Twenty plus years later, the survival rate is near what the mortality rate was before this medicine. This means more women are living to see another day, another day to love their life, their families and to do what makes them happy. A great movie to watch about Dr. Slamon’s fight to bring this drug to market is called “Living Proof”. It was featured on Lifetime in 2008. If you do decide to watch it, make sure you have a Kleenex nearby.
Even being diagnosed with cancer and all the hell I went thru (and still am) I have continued to feel blessed and be active. I have so much to continue to be thankful for in my life that I choose to not let the negative take over. I even had a few firsts in 2018 including my first descent and ascent of Whiteside Mountain which is nearly 700 feet and I was also on one of the first handful of through trips through Rumbling Falls Cave in Tennessee. Our Rumbling Falls trip was 10 hours and 15 minutes from entrance to entrance.
Sure, I have my bad days; everyone does and I am certainly no exception. There are days when I do cry and there is not a day that goes by that I do not deal with some side effect from the chemo, radiation or the medicines they have given me. Sharp stabbing pain from loosing the nerves on my chest, sharp pains in my ribs from the radiation fibrosis, pain from the scar tissue that has built up, neuropathy in my feet from the chemo, the list goes on. But I am still here, still fighting and still living my life.
I have openly shared my journey through breast cancer in the hopes that my fight will help others who may be in a time of need. Whether it is breast cancer or another disease they are struggling with I want to show there is hope. There is hope to regain your life back, while it might not be the same as before but that you can do it. I have discovered along this path, I obviously have a HIGH tolerance for pain; higher than I ever thought before. I realize everyone is different and we all experience things in a different way. Our bodies respond differently to different drugs, treatments, etc. But I want to show there is hope and that your attitude on how you face it will affect your outcome greatly.
And lastly, I cannot thank those of you enough who supported me through this journey. So many people have been there for me; fighting right along side of me thru this hell. My family including my awesome husband, who is also a 22 year cancer survivor, my parents, my siblings and all of my extended family who have lifted me up. Some of my best friends Jennifer and the Campbell's and all of you who supported me on my posts on Facebook. All of the encouragement, all of the cards, the hats you all sent me when I lost all my hair. You all know who you are and I cannot thank you enough for helping to lift me up in my greatest time of need.
My first caving trip post bilateral mastectomy
An awesome trip with great friends whom I love dearly to Tom Pack Cave
Justin...! We will never go to Blunder Hole again, LOL.
Jason and I after my first rappel / climb at Whiteside Mountain. This was bittersweet as I was unable to do it in 2017 due to me having my first Chemo two days before our trip.
The Buffalo River in Arkansas. Jason completed his goal of paddling the entire 120+ miles of the river this year. I was so happy to be with him on this accomplishment.
After our rappel / climb at Whiteside Mountain in North Carolina. 700 feet baby...!
Our crew for the thru trip at Rumbling Falls Cave. Thank you Troy for an amazing trip. Alicia not pictured because she is taking the photo.
The Pink Wig I received from the Pink Wig Project. https://www.pinkwigproject.org/
A rainy spring float on the Elk River. Photo credit Tim Curtis.
Welcoming REI to Chattanooga at their Chacos & Tacos Event at the Hunter Museum.
Me rappelling over 400 feet at Amicoala Falls two weeks after my bilateral mastectomy. #FCancer
Our Easter 2018 trip to float the Cumberland River in the Big South Fork.
Me after my bilateral mastectomy. Note I am still smiling. Love this Life. I am still alive.
After seeing Billy Strings at Bluegrass Underground for their inagural show.
A day of caving always makes me happy but I can tell in this pic I wasn't feeling too well. I was bald but I never lost my eyebrows. #FCancer
Continuing to do what I love...!
Me at Neversink for my birthday in 2017... I had chemo two days before so I couldn't do the pit but I was there!
Love this life...!
My newest tattoo... #FCancer