The American Cancer Society’s push to “Celebrate More Birthdays” and find a cure for cancer should be celebrated throughout the year. But breast cancer has inevitably touched everyone’s life – a mother, sister, co-worker, friend of a friend – and we all know at least one woman, if not many who’ve trembled when answering their doctor’s phone call.
The Weekly Newspapers will be sharing breast cancer survivor stories throughout the month of October. How does the saying go? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? With regular breast exams and screenings, the lovely ladies in our lives can count on plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Stacie Kidwell – The Poster Child for Prevention
Real estate maven Stacie Kidwell’s initial reaction to the news was not surprising.
“I was scared to death, even though right from the start I was told it was the earliest detectable stage with a very high survival rate,” she reflected on the discovery of a lump in her breast.
Her options lay on the table before her included a mastectomy or lumpectomy with radiation. Chemotherapy was not in the cards.
Kidwell opted for the latter and admitted her greatest fear was the doctor would find something other than the initial diagnosis once inside.
“That can happen, but I lucked out and everything went according to plan.”
A biopsy at the end of last year was followed by the lumpectomy this past March. In May, she began daily radiation treatments that lasted for six weeks.
Kidwell admitted that through the course of her treatment, she was quite hesitant to discuss it with her friends or co-workers.
“Compared to what other people I know have gone through, I didn’t think I had the right to complain,” she confessed. “I didn’t want my business associates or customers to know; I was afraid they’d think I couldn’t do my job.”
She found solace in an active force in the Middle Keys community and fellow breast cancer survivor Charlotte Quinn
“I tried to convince myself it was no big deal, but no matter how logical you try to be, your emotions run all over the place,” Kidwell continued. “She was one of the first people I called for support because I knew she had been through it. I call her my ‘boob buddy’!”
Quinn is currently serving a second term as American Cancer Society Chair of the Middle Keys, and she was quick to encourage Kidwell’s active involvement in the organization and one of its biggest annual fundraisers, Relay for Life.
The “newcomer to the survivor’s club” admitted she was only minimally involved with Relay for Life in years past, but her experience and interaction with Quinn have catapulted her right to the front lines.
“They do so much more than I realize,” Kidwell explained. “It’s a huge event to put together!”
She added that she is one of the lucky ones, not only because of her early detection, but because she has health insurance.
“I had to be very careful where I went for treatment because of the network I am in,” she explained. “Almost no one in the Keys is part of my network, and I’d have had to pay a 25 percent surcharge if I went ‘out of network’. I was fortunate to find a great surgeon at South Miami Hospital within the Baptist system, who took my insurance plan.”
When Kidwell first came to the Keys from Delaware, she happened upon WomanKind in Key West (see related story). Their distribution of mammogram vouchers helped get her on the right track for regular screenings that are recommended annually for all women beginning at the age of 40.
“For so many people down here who do not have health insurance, spending $300 on a mammogram may not be an option,” Kidwell continued.
After extensive personal research – “I read everything I could get my hands on!” – her focus on the future has changed significantly.
“Nutrition and lifestyle play such a huge role, but you won’t hear much about that from most western doctors. Surgeons cut and radiologists radiate. We probably all have cancer cells just waiting to attack. The better you take care of yourself now, the better you’ll be able to fight them off. I’ve changed the way I eat and the products I use.”
“My advice? Don’t wait until you’re sick. Do it now!”
Stacie Kidwell had rather be fighting fish than fighting breast cancer.
WomanKind is a woman’s health care center located in Key West that provides gynecological care – annual exams, pap smears, emergency contraception, and HRT, basic primary care, prescriptions, diagnostic tests, mental health counseling, smoke cessation, weight control and a confidential teen clinic.
The lack of availability of health insurance, low wages, and extremely high cost of living are factors that have long made basic, preventative healthcare a luxury for many residents. WomanKind was founded to address this problem by delivering safe, affordable, and quality healthcare to all women in the Lower Keys community. Some patients can afford to pay full fee and thus help subsidize those women who are underinsured or uninsured.
It was built upon a “women helping women” model.
“We are in the process of accepting Medicaid and private insurance, yet at the moment we charge on a sliding scale basis,” explains Executive Director Kim Romano.
In 2009, WomanKind served 1,552 women during 3,992 office visits, with nearly a third of patients over the age of 40, putting them at higher risk for developing breast cancer.
When compared to the State of Florida overall, Monroe County has a higher percentage of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the late stages.
Through their ABC Walk/Run, members of the area Zonta chapter raised nearly $45,000 in 2009 to provide vouchers to cover mammograms, pap smears and other cancer-screening diagnostic tests for women in the Florida Keys.
Diane Weitz, RN, Infection Control Specialist, and Education Coordinator at Fishermen’s Hospital has coordinated two Lunch and Learn Seminars this month with the focus on raising awareness about early breast cancer detection. If you missed Thursday’s event with information on services available through the American Cancer Society, mark your calendar now for Oct. 21 from 11 am – 1 pm when Dr. John Verghese will discuss breast reconstruction options.
Fishermen’s Hospital has discounted mammograms for self-pay patients. During the month of October, Fishermen’s Radiologist, Dr. Peeter Jakobson, is offering a 25 percent discount for self-paid patients. Rice Krispy Treats and Cookies are on sale during the month of October with proceeds benefiting Relay for Life. Any person having a mammogram done in the month of October will receive a gift bag and a corsage donated by Marathon Florist. Breast Cancer Awareness Swarovski Crystal bracelets are also available for sale at the hospital.
The Zonta Club of Marathon happily supports free mammograms for uninsured, Middle Keys patients with a prescription from your primary care physician, gynecologist or CHI. For more information about this program, call Sandy Riegor at (305) 481-5874 or Dianne Weitz at (305) 289-6207.
Early detection is the best cure! To schedule your mammogram, call Fishermen’s Hospital One Call at (305) 289-2255.