LaKishja Mabry's Story
Thursday, September 7, 2017 I received a call that I had been praying would come for about two weeks. A job offer that I had been praying for finally came through. Nothing but joy filled my heart. I thought to myself…God has finally answered my prayer, it’s time to move, there’s a shift in my situation, change was coming and I was more than happy to be walking into this next phase of my life. I had finally gotten the opportunity that I had been waiting for. Yes, the job will cause me to commute forty minutes, but my desire for change and opportunity to expand my horizon far more outweighed the commute. My start date would be Monday, September 25, 2017.
In order to start my new position on a good note, I made sure all my annual appointments were scheduled before my new job start date. My annual gynecology exam - completed and everything was normal. My mammogram appointment was on September 20, 2017. I had been getting my mammograms since the age of forty as women are advised to do. I went to work that day until it was time for my appointment. My plan was to go to my appointment during my lunch break and return to work after the appointment.
The exam was slightly different this time. The 3D exam showed a mass in the upper portion of my left breast. I didn’t think much about it, because at my first mammogram when I turned forty, I had to go back for a follow-up for the same area. The previous follow-ups and annual check-ups all turned out fine.
I was sent back into the waiting area for a room to become available for a sonogram. After the sonogram was completed, the doctor was not satisfied with what she had seen. She wanted to set up another appointment for me to have a biopsy. The nurse and I talked about my new job and discussed a time that would work for the biopsy appointment. The nurse left the room, but returned soon to let me know a time slot had just opened up and they could do the biopsy in twenty minutes if I wanted to wait. With my new job start date only five days away, “sure, I can wait”.
Another nurse came to prep me for the procedure. The doctor came into the room to explain what she was about to do. There will be a small incision and she would clip off a piece of the mass for testing. Okay…that’s easy enough, I’ll be numb - let’s go. The procedure is now complete and I’ll come back for my results at my follow-up appointment. Uuuugh it’s Wednesday, I start my job on Monday…I can’t come next week for the follow-up. My follow-up appointment was scheduled for Friday, September 22, 2017 at 1:00pm. It was the latest, yet earliest date and time that the results could possibly be back. The nurse told me if the results were not back by my appointment date, she would call me to let me know. Since I had gone two years prior and had follow-up appointments from my mammograms, I really didn’t let the two days of waiting bother me too much. I was kind of uneasy about the tone of the doctor’s voice, because I felt like she knew what to look for and since she had done several biopsy’s, I felt like she knew exactly what to look for. I was anxious about getting the results back and having the feeling of relief that everything is FINE.
Friday, September 22, 2017…11:00am, no call…12:00pm, no call…12:30pm, no call, so I leave for my biopsy follow-up appointment. Now…I have to mention…this day is my last day at the Clerk’s Office in Rowan County after six and a half years. They have food, drinks, cards, gifts…it’s a celebration for me! There were memories made in this office, and I met some great people along the way. It felt good knowing they cared enough about me to celebrate in my happiness even though it meant not working with them any longer.
I arrive at my appointment. I asked my son to meet me there just so I wouldn’t be alone. My name is called. We walk into an office with a round table by the door and a desk in the opposite corner. The Breast Cancer Navigator, Jill, seats us and let us know she’s going to get the doctor. I was confused…I had never been in this situation before. I didn’t know if it was normal for everyone or just for people that are about to get “THE NEWS”. I got an uneasy feeling in my stomach…I thought to myself, “well, Jamarian (my son) is here…I’m glad I’m not alone”. Jill and a male doctor walk into the room. They both take a seat and he begins to talk about what happened at my previous appointment. He than said, “your results came back and you have cancer”. I did not hear another word that he said. It was like I was sitting in the classroom listening to Charlie Brown’s teacher. My entire world had crashed right before me. What??? Cancer!!! Why??? Me??? Really!!! What do I do now??? This can’t be happening…I start a new job on Monday. As the tears streamed down my cheeks, I felt the grip of Jamarian’s hand get tighter as he began to sniffle. The doctor finishes whatever he was saying and leaves the room. I vaguely remember nodding at him as he left. Jill hands me a book and some other information…I still don’t know what she said. I just remember her saying that she was my contact during THIS PROCESS!
Fast forward four months…here comes the bills. I had already started reaching out to different foundations that “SAID” they provided assistance to breast cancer patients while undergoing treatment. The phone calls became routine. I would go through their series of questions. Then they would ask, “how long have you been out of work?” When I would tell them I was still working, their ability to help me went to zero.
All of the foundations that I reached out to told me they could not help me. What was I supposed to do…stop working just to receive assistance? I had made it through single parenting, working and school without the system and I was determined to somehow make it through this. The fact that I continued to work disqualified me from every foundation I reached out to. It seemed to me that would be a reason to help me even more…but it wasn’t.
My Oncologist’s office enrolled me in a program. Some type of a co-pay relief fund that assisted me with all of my bills associated with my chemo treatments. If I had not gotten this assistance, I would be under a LOT more debt. Almost one year later, I have been left with over $6,000 in medical bills which have been turned over to collections. Luckily the collection agency works well with me. I have been set up on a monthly payment plan.
My goal is to help those just like me. Since my ordeal, I have spoken with other people that have endured or are enduring heartbreaking breast cancer diagnosis, yet maintaining jobs. They too have been turned down for assistance programs simply because they maintain their working status. I feel that these assistance programs are missing the fact that although patients are able to work, they were already obligated to bills and living expenses prior to their diagnosis. The diagnosis and treatment is an addition to their current living expenses, which do not go away once they are diagnosed with breast cancer. The ability to continue to work during this time comes only through the grace of God. This determination should be looked at as a plus, but in my case and many others, it seems to be viewed as a negative.
Heart & Sole is for working Breast Cancer Patients undergoing treatment. It was placed in my HEART that when your SOLE hits the floor for work during your process, one less thing to worry about is where the funds will come from to pay outstanding medical bills.