Linda

Age at interview: 63
Outline:

Linda, age 63, was diagnosed three years ago with breast cancer through a routine mammogram. She had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, radiation, chemotherapy, and is now taking aromatase inhibitors to reduce her risk of recurrence. She is involved with a breast cancer advocacy and support organization. Her close relationships and her faith help her cope.

Background:

Linda is a White woman who is retired and lives with her loving husband in a Southern city.

Cancer-Related Experience: Cancer

Type on Inherited Risk: Family history of cancer

 

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At the age of 61, Linda’s routine mammogram in February of 2016 ended up with a breast cancer diagnosis, a double mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. It was her twenty-second mammogram since turning 40. She was vigilant about screening, because her maternal grandmother died of breast cancer that had metastasized to the bones.

While testing negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, Linda says the “genetic factor,” has made it easier to cope with her own cancer. When diagnosed, Linda’s “irrational brain” took over. She could not center. She was mad. Her body had turned against her. Her calls to God were not immediately answered. She felt forsaken. Then upon enlisting her rational brain, Linda realized that cancer is part of her “genetic makeup.” God was present. He didn’t do this to her. Her path emerging from her pre-cancer life serving children with disabilities was clear. Linda saw that, “God needed me to walk this breast cancer path.” And she has.

Since her breast cancer diagnosis, Linda retired from her job and has re-focused her teaching and administrative skills to working with a breast cancer organization that provides top-quality cancer care support for people across the socioeconomic spectrum. Linda has a strong faith and is blessed with loving support of her daughter and friends while recovering from surgery, and the sisterhood of her breast cancer support group—and is enjoying life, with her husband, to its fullest.

Linda notes her excellent care and insurance coverage. Shortly after her grandmother died with not such great care, Linda took the opportunity through her workplace to pay a small monthly fee for additional cancer insurance. This additional insurance has reimbursed everything, including her preventive aromatase inhibitors. Linda notes, “I only purchased it because of my grandmother.” Linda highly recommends “when you get to a place” where you’re ready for help, “seek that out” because “it’s a meaningful thing” to “speak to other survivors.” Life has changed a lot for Linda since her cancer diagnosis. She is now more “careful with her time” noting “I only do the things that I want to do” and through it all, the things that remain important are “my faith, my family, and my health.”

 

A genetic counselor gives Linda the information she needs to make a decision about testing.

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A genetic counselor gives Linda the information she needs to make a decision about testing.

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The genetic counselor talked to us about doing the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2, I wanted to do it because, well, it was explained to me first. I didn't really understand. [A close male relative] had prostate cancer. And 25% to 30% of the time, a mutated BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 gene will manifest in males as prostate cancer. So he was my red flag more so than my maternal grandmother. And then the geneticist felt that because I have a daughter and I have a niece and I have twin granddaughters that we needed to determine if the BRCA 1 or 2 gene was there, the mutated gene. And so yes, I wanted to do that.

 

Linda describes having long ago purchased a supplemental insurance policy that helped a lot with cancer-related costs, because she had seen her grandmother die of cancer.

Linda describes having long ago purchased a supplemental insurance policy that helped a lot with cancer-related costs, because she had seen her grandmother die of cancer.

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Well I purchased a cancer, supplemental cancer policy in 1990 and my husband and I paid $27 a month for it. And every time, every year, I'd say, “[NAME], do you want me to continue it?” He goes, “It's not much money. Why don't you just go ahead and do it?” You want to retire, so we got our long-term care there, too, for both of us. So I retired and I said, “Do you want me to continue it?” And he goes, “Might as well.” And I had forgotten I had it. And so after my diagnosis and everything, my husband spent a morning researching and looking through the policy. And so I had this supplemental policy that reimbursed a lot, and to the tune of, the first year, almost $100,000. So mine, it didn't coordinate with my insurance, which I thought that's what it would do.
Yeah.
What I purchased. And so it reimbursed everything. And right now, it's paying for all of my aromatase inhibitors, reimbursing me for the amount that my insurance company pays. And so I only purchased it because of my grandmother.
That was your grandmother's gift to you, wasn't it?
Yes. I was there the night my grandmother died. I went with my mother. And I've looked back on that many, many times and remember it vividly. And she, I was first granddaughter, only granddaughter, I should say. So she and I were very close and so I've thought about her a lot and what her feelings might have been. I don't think she got the great care. They didn’t have the great care then that they do now.

 

Linda felt overwhelmed by information at medical appointments.

Linda felt overwhelmed by information at medical appointments.

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Doctors are firing away and they're talking to you, and they want you to take your pink vest, paper vest, and they want to look and see what's going on here. They are looking at your breasts. You're looking at your breasts, at your implants. The doctor's talking. He's pointing and you're trying to figure out what he's saying, and you miss a lot of it. [break] And we would get back in the car, and [NAME] would say “well [NAME] said da-da-da-da-da-da-da,” and I went, “He did?” and he goes, “yeah.” [NAME] heard for me all the things that I missed, and he would write them down and we would formulate questions together. And he was with me every step of the way.