By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
It’s Monday, March 18th. My sweet Noah’s 13th birthday. I can’t believe this kid is already thirteen; nor can I believe how crazy I am about him (despite him being 13…hahaha)! It is also the day that I hope to hear back from the doctor, all the while knowing that it could very likely be tomorrow. By about 3 PM, I have given up most hopes of getting a phone call today with my biopsy results, so I start planning for a short trip to the store before Noah gets out of school at 4 PM. I still feel lousy, but I need to make Noah’s birthday dinner, so I change clothes and head off with my list to the Kroger around the corner. It’s 3:45 PM, and I am two steps out of my Jeep when my phone rings; a familiar Dallas number pops up and I stop, frozen in my tracks.
“This is Tanya.”
“Hi Tanya. This is Dr. Seiler at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Do you have a minute?”
Really? No. Do I have a minute? Like I’m going to say, “Now isn’t a good time to find out about my cancer. Can I call you back?” Sorry. Inner sarcasm comes out during times of high stress.
“Of course! Let me jump back into my Jeep and turn some air on.”
From there, his calm, soothing voice led me through every step of the pathology report that he has so far. He went in the same order that he performed the biopsies:
1. The Stereotactic Biopsy of calcifications on the left breast – OK. Fibroadenoma. Benign changes.
2. The mass on the right breast – OK. A stromal hyperplasia. Also benign changes.
3. The mass on the left breast (the one that I felt) – Cancer. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. The most common form of breast cancer, he said. In the ducts and outside of the ducts. Wonderful.
4. The lymph node area of the left armpit – Cancer.
Big, deep breath. Okay. Do we have a stage yet? No. The specimens are being sent off for further testing and staging. It is Grade 3, which is the highest grade – and the worst. It got a score of 8 out of 9, which I guess is bad. My next step, he tells me, is to see a surgeon. They might do more testing (like MRIs and xrays), but they will formulate a treatment plan and decide if surgery will be needed first or chemotherapy first. He answered all of my questions, and made sure to ask me at the end if I had any OTHER questions.
I then spoke with Amanda, the coordinator at UT Southwestern with the nurses at Moncrief Cancer Center, the program that funded my mammograms, sonograms, and biopsies. She put me on hold, contacted my nurse there, and came back to tell me that they will begin the process of Medicaid paperwork for me, and not to worry about any of it for the time being. She said that I would get a call the next day from the nurse handling my case, and they would get me in to finish up paperwork, and it would take 6-10 business days to get an active Medicaid number. Once I have that, I can make the appointment with a surgeon that they refer me to, and hopefully get a good plan in place for treatment. More waiting.
I know that if I had insurance, I would just pick up the phone to the surgeon of my choice (who accepted my plan, of course), and make the appointment. Things are different for the non-insured, but thankfully, I am no longer panicked at the thought of having to self-pay EVERYTHING. Now, I know that Medicaid does not pay for everything, and I will have out-of-pocket expenses; and thankfully I have wonderful people in my life (and in others’ lives) who have already started a fund for that! And if anyone is wondering how I am able to get Medicaid, it is because we live in a state that does not recognize our marriage (as well as on a federal level). Therefore, Erikka, in the eyes of Texas, is considered my roommate; and I am considered a single mother of two children at home (since I legally adopted Harrison). Crazy, huh?
It just keeps coming back to me that all of those who are opposed to same-sex marriage, for whatever messed up reason, have no clue how it can, and DOES, hurt real people, in real families to keep a “separate but equal” mentality anymore. The Defense of Marriage Act has no good merits, except to discriminate and divide. Having marriage legal in all states for some people, yet only legal in certain states for others, will do nothing but complicate matters large and small, on many levels.
And breast cancer is no small matter.