NW Novice Champ, 1970
Sellwood Community Center, Portland, Ore.
Cancer Sucks. Surviving Motivates.
April 28, 2006
I turned 45 this year, an appropriate age for a breast examination routine.
To say my forties snuck up on me, bares no excuse for not considering an annual breast exam.
Actually, it was a series of visits to a dermatologist, which brought me to Breast Cancer
My eventual treatment was the extraction of my right aureola followed by a right sentinel node
biopsy and axillary lymph node dissection a week later.
Let me back up. I love golfing. It was a year before surgery, they started trimming on me, July,
again in August, one time in October, prime golfing in the Pacific Northwest. All of this weakened
my right side and corrected a wicked slice in my game (some may question corrected).
I didn't know to take what was happening to me seriously. I even shot my best round with sutures holding my right nipple togther.
By late fall I wasn't golfing and a mastectomy was scheduled for after the new year.
A mastectomy in Oregon, USA, is a day surgery. I arrived to the hospital at 6:00 a.m. and left around 9:00 p.m. with instructions for the drain bag and an automatic morphine dispenser. My wife and her mother were there and transported me to a comfortable place at home.
Gratefully, I was employed with a company who offered medical insurance. They didn't however, offer any kind of sick pay or short term disability, requiring me go back to work the week in between surgeries and a total of 12 unpaid days for recovery. Even with what I consider very good insurance, it's taken us until this June to pay the co-pay; 18 months later.
My wife believes, if I were a woman, treatment would have been expedited and reconstruction options made available.
I now know Breast Cancer is a concern for men and I'm trying to learn how to share my story to inform men it can happen to them.
I'm doing great! It's taken a year of swinging a club and a coach to get me feeling like I can golf again, I look forward to a lower handicap and a new appreciation.
April 28, 2008
I'm big on anniversaries – yet I totally missed this one.
It’s been two years with my Oncologist.
He's the Doctor responsible for my overall treatment plan, monitors my blood, gives a
Clinical Breast Exam (CBE) and checks for other signs of Breast Cancer reoccurrence.
I like and trust him.
Everything is going as expected; Great!
To be honest, I didn't expect to hear anything but good news. Then again, I never would have expected to hear a Breast Cancer Diagnosis to begin with.
With two years under my belt, or 'er, above the belt, it's getting easier to talk about me and Breast Cancer.
While I was reluctant, I made contact with my local Komen Affiliate, which turns out to be the best experience for me. I’m in a unique position to offer a different perspective on Breast Cancer. They seem to think so too.
They’re Vision, A World Without Breast Cancer.
Something I can support
April 23, 2009
This is the third anniversary after breast cancer surgery. This appointment concerned me more than other visits. I walked into the Northwest Cancer Specialists building this time; uninsured.
I'd called the business office a few weeks prior, to ask how an uninsured patient is treated and was told, arrangements can be made to accommodate my temporary job loss.
Equipped with my daily dose of coffee and little else in my stomach, I approached the front desk. The receptionist was incredibly charming, as they always have been, and informed me, I should meet with Heather (in accounting) before I leave my visit. I indicated I'd expected this and had already contacted the business office to inform them of the change in insurance status.
"Is that all?" I ask, "you're checked in William" she says. I go and sit in the holding area.
It's like any medical building waiting room, only here, there are some really sick people. I always try to make eye contact and smile with each person waiting, whether patient or ... (Father, Mother, Sister, you name it...). They move along pretty quick, so not many words are spoken. Then my name comes up.
It's Lab time. If I were sick, this would happen all the time. As is for me, (lucky in all things), it's an every six month deal.
It's Spring this visit so I can wear a short sleeve under my coat for the blood letting.
They've poked me many times before, only this time, I felt my face go flush and didn't feel okay standing up. I asked for a bit of water.
For a second, there was a hint of "not in my job description," it passed quickly. A few sips and I'm good.
Back to the waiting room. Then I'm called for the oncologist exam. This begins with blood pressure, weight and temp. All in good order.
Then to an exam room. Its a few minutes, in walks the oncologist. A gentle man who always tells me how healthy I look. He does a couple taps, checks the usual places, tells me of his gardening and says "regardless of your insurance situation, you keep taking the monthly prescription. If you have a problem, you contact me."
It hasn't been a problem, I tell him but I'm relieved by his compassion.
He then reminds me of the limited research data for men with breast cancer. He studied up for my visit. Treatment for woman is based in part by pre or post menopausal stages of life. "We just can't take that into consideration for you." He says.
"Everything looks good, see you in six months."
We shake hands again, and that was that. Three years into this thing.
I should be celebrating as I enter my last year of cancer treatment. And I am, to a certain degree. These last 5 years have aged me. Whether it's by natural age, stress or treatment and response; I'm well into my middle years. This bi-annual visit to the oncologist was again different, in that, I used my Kaiser access for lab work and forwarded the data to Northwest Cancer Specialists, saving me $276.00 in insurance dollars.
I think in an earlier post, I spoke about contacting Northwest Cancer Specialists (NCS) in an effort to make payment arrangements when I lost my employment based insurance. The effort simply didn't work. Julie and I made monthly out of pocket payments and received collection calls over the past 6 months until I paid the last $41.00 at the time of my April visit.
I get they want their money, and I don't have a problem paying them, with the exception, I'm out of work and don't have insurance. I chose to stay with my oncologist, outside of policy, for consistency of treatment.
I blame no one. Maybe a little guilt for me, my family, my heritage, genetic makeup. My mother survived 6 years of cancer before leaving us. It was a sad time, though I witnessed courage, first hand. All of this goes through my mind as I deal with the business office.
April 17, 2011
Clean bill of health and the end of 5 years of tamoxifen.
Dr. Spencer Shao
last visit after 5 years.