Lori

Age at interview: 56
Outline:

Lori, age 56, comes from a family with lots of females and breast cancer across the generations. Despite one relative testing negative for breast cancer genetic mutations, Lori knows she is still at high risk. She is screened at a high-risk breast clinic with breast MRIs and mammograms every six months. She gets anxious before her or family members’ screenings and avoids getting too much in-depth information. Deep family ties, good friends, a loving dog, faith, keeping busy at work, and taking control of her diet all help to reduce her anxiety.

Background:

Lori is a White, 56-year-old woman who lives in a suburban area in the Midwest with her young adult son and her loving dog.

Cancer-Related Experience: Elevated risk

Type of Inherited Risk: Family history of cancer

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Lori comes from a family with lots of females and lots of breast cancer across the generations. With the latest diagnosis in the family, Lori thought, “if it can happen to her, then it definitely can happen to me.” Lori gets an annual breast MRI and a three-dimensional mammogram at a high-risk breast cancer clinic. As each screening approaches, she worries, “what if they find out that there's something wrong?” And then she is on “pins and needles” waiting for the results. She worries about her two adult sons, who also have cancer on their father’s side!

Lori knows her risk is still high, even though a close relative’s genetic test “didn't indicate that it runs in the family.” With frequent job changes, her health insurance has fluctuated, making “it difficult to keep up with who's going to cover what.” While between jobs, Lori had to postpone her semi-annual breast MRI, which was very worrisome! Her current insurance allowed Lori to see her favorite doctor, who referred her to the high-risk breast clinic. Having been without insurance, Lori says she would be all for it “if more people can get insured.”

Lori has found several ways to manage her stress around screenings and fear of breast cancer. Foremost are the people who care about her well-being. Her large family uses a private Facebook page to bridge geographical distances. Her two adult sons check in after her screening appointments. Family members who have just “soldiered on” with breast cancer are inspiring role models. She has a great circle of friends. Jobey, her dog, with his unconditional love, is a tremendous source of support. She says, no matter how bad her day was, “you walk in the door, and he's just so happy to see you.” Ultimately, Lori believes that God is protecting her, “if I live my life right, then He will continue to take care of me.” Being “a little bit superstitious,” Lori does not scare herself with online cancer information. Instead, she has adapted her recipes to include more fresh fruits and vegetables and tries to, not worry about the little things” that she can't fix. Work helps a lot. Before a screening, she gets involved in a project that's going keep her “busy for a long, long time.”

Lori’s message to health professionals dealing with a possible cancer situation, is to “take the time to make the patient feel like you're really listening.” To people living with a high family risk for breast cancer, she says, “surround yourself with friends, people that love you, people that can take care of you when you need it.”

 

Lori looks for absorbing tasks at work to get through times when her cancer risk is distracting.

Lori looks for absorbing tasks at work to get through times when her cancer risk is distracting.

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Some days if it’s really close to an appointment, or if I know my sister’s going through another test or whatnot, it’s hard to concentrate. But I try to just find something that’s going to keep me really, really busy, and busy for a long period of time. Not little projects here and there, but something that will keep my concentration away from everything else so I can get through the day and come home to where I can let loose, or whatever needs to be done. If that means crying or whatnot.
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You learn to control it when you have to.

 

Lori recalls being “on pins and needles” waiting to get her results.

Lori recalls being “on pins and needles” waiting to get her results.

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But yes, it is always in there in the back of my head thinking, “OK well, you know, what if this next visit they find out that there's something wrong?” Because there was a time, one of the first tests I had, you get the test, and you go home, and you're on pins and needles waiting for the results. And the minute they call you're like, “oh my God, I don't want to hear this.” And the minute they called, I had to go back for a second one. And then of course, my mind went racing. And I'm thinking, “oh my God, I have cancer.” But fortunately, it was just something else, and I was fine. But there's always that worry that every time you go in there, it's going to be the time where they tell you, “guess what? You're not safe anymore.” So it's always going to be there. It's always going to be a concern. But you can't run your life worrying about it constantly.

 

Lori explains what it’s like to feel rushed.

Lori explains what it’s like to feel rushed.

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Just take time with your patients and make sure that they have the information they need, and that they are comfortable with everything before they walk out the door. There's nothing worse than walking out the door and saying, “why didn't she tell me anything about whatever?” You know, just take the time. It seems like everybody's always in such a big hurry. You go in there-- for example, my son just had a couple of appointments. And he went in there and in and out within like 10, 15 minutes. And he never felt like he really got the attention that he deserved. And something like this, if you're dealing with a possible cancer situation, take the time to make the patient feel like you're really listening to him.