Close to the Heart: Stories of Planned Parenthood Breast Care Patients
2 Close to the Heart: Stories of Planned Parenthood Breast Care Patients
Close to the Heart: Stories of Planned Parenthood Breast Care Patients
Last year, Planned Parenthood health centers provided 750,000 clinical breast exams to women across the country. These exams save lives. But the work that Planned Parenthood does goes beyond the exams. Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses teach patients about breast care, connect patients to resources to help them get vital biopsies, ultrasounds, and mammograms, and follow up to make sure patients are cared for with the attention they need and deserve. So many of these patients have written in to share their stories about how Planned Parenthood has provided much needed breast health care and education — care that has improved or saved their lives. Here are just a few of these stories…*
*These stories are in the real words of the women who provided them. Planned Parenthood health centers provide a range of breast health services — including clinical breast exams, referrals for biopsies, ultrasounds, and mammograms, and overall breast education services. As part of these programs, some women may have received their mammograms through a Planned Parenthood health center, while others may have been provided with resources and referal information to receive services elsewhere. While their stories are each unique — and are described in the words of the patients themselves — all of the women profiled in this book received health care as a direct result of Planned Parenthood’s lifesaving work.
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Abigail S. NAME
Westminster, CO LOCATION
Planned Parenthood has not only aided me in preventing any complications with my reproductive health, but has also aided and guided me during other times in which I was both scared and without resources. In January of 2010 I found a lump in my left breast, hard, mobile, about the size of a small grape. At the time I was unemployed (like many others in the nation), and considering having to ignore it. However, at my annual exam, I did have one of Planned Parenthoodâ€™s doctors look at it, and was encouraged to get an ultrasound, which then led to me having to have the lump biopsied. The total estimated costs for the ultrasound and needle biopsy which had to be done through an outside health institution would have been over $7000. I was nearly penniless, without insurance, and terrified about the possibilities of where the results of this biopsy could have led... Fortunately, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in Fort Collins, CO provided me with information and counseling that eased my mind about upcoming procedures and possibilities of what this lump in my breast could have been during this troubled, lonely, and financially stretched time of my life. Even more important, they connected me with the resources I needed to pay for needed medical services through Susan Komen and CICP. Luckily, I know today that it was benign and I have been educated about other symptoms and situations that would indicate malignancy. Without Planned Parenthood, I would still be walking around years later unsure of what was going on inside my body and the immediate future of my health.
4 Close to the Heart: Stories of Planned Parenthood Breast Care Patients
Renna S. NAME
Denver, C0 LOCATION
I first visited Planned Parenthood in the late 1960’s, seeking OBGYN care and — yes! — birth control. BECAUSE I was able to find dependable birth control, I was never faced with the heart-wrenching decisions that can surround an unplanned pregnancy. But I also found something else: High quality OBGYN and other women’s health care, provided in a dignified, humane and shame-free atmosphere. In 1994, an exam at Planned Parenthood led to a mammogram referral which led to the discovery of breast cancer. That was 16 years ago and (a) I’m still here and (b) I still go to Planned Parenthood for my female health check-ups. At age 61, this care no longer involves birth control (I’ve “aged out” of needing it), but I’m still interested in being healthy and I still value a dignified, humane and shame-free atmosphere. Planned Parenthood provides this. Over the last 43 years, their services have not only enhanced my quality of life, they’ve helped SAVE my life.
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Planned Parenthood has always been a safety net in the back of my mind. When I was 17, I was really distant from my parents, but found that I had a tremendous lump in my right breast. Reasonably so, I was terrified. I discussed it with a male friend of mine, and he suggested that we should go to Planned Parenthood, as theyâ€™d do the examination for me for a nominal fee. Together we went to the nearest Planned Parenthood, and they lifted the burden from my shoulders immediately. They explained that a mammary duct of mine was clogged, and gave me thorough instructions on how to tend to the issue, should it flare up again. One appointment saved me from the fear of something worse. THIS RESOURCE IS A SAFE HOUSE FOR MILLIONS EACH YEAR.
Maggie C. NAME
Tallahassee, FL LOCATION
Planned Parenthood found a lump in my breast three years ago. I had a biopsy and it was fine, but my maternal grandmother died of breast cancer and I was scared once again and once again Planned Parenthood was there for me. If you hurt Planned Parenthood, you hurt all women in this country.
6 Close to the Heart: Stories of Planned Parenthood Breast Care Patients
Sarah C. NAME
Aurora, C0 LOCATION
About three years ago my good friend came to me asking if I knew of any resources that might help her to address the lump in her breast that had, over the last year or so, encompassed about three-quarters of her right breast. She even had me feel it and it was from the three o’clock position to the twelve o’clock position of her breast. I was horrified. She and her husband both work, but at that time they were blue collar jobs that either didn’t offer health insurance benefits or they were too expensive to purchase (health benefits cost more than she made every month). I started making phone calls, as I had some professional experience in resource coordination, and discovered that there was funding available to diagnose and treat reproductive cancers that could be accessed through Planned Parenthood. I gave all the information that I had gleaned to my friend, and she made her appointment with the local clinic. They referred her to another diagnostic center, and within a month of her first appointment with Planned Parenthood, she had her diagnosis; it was stage 3 breast cancer. After aggressive chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy, my friend is cancer free two years later. If it had not been for Planned Parenthood, my friend may not have gotten the resources and treatment that she needed to survive.
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This is about how Planned Parenthood found my breast cancer and possibly saved my life! I’m 50 now, and had been going to Planned Parenthood for my birth control from the age of 17. After I gave birth to my son in 1991, I went to Planned Parenthood for birth control pills. The nurse practitioner gave me a full examination which included a pap smear and breast examination. Well, she found a lump in my left breast. I insisted that I had always had lumpy breasts and it was probably from just finishing breast feeding. She wouldn’t hear of it and told me to come back in a month and see if my milk dried up. “UGH!” I thought this is a waste of time, but I wanted the less expensive pills. OK....back I went the next month. Again...she wasn’t happy with the lump. “See a surgeon,” she said. “UGH!” I thought...this is just a waste of time. But, I did it anyway. Long story short. It turned out to be breast cancer. I was only 30!! I had the lump removed and received radiation and have been breast cancer free for 20 years! If it wasn’t for the persistent and caring nurse at Planned Parenthood, I might not be alive today!
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Cecilia R. NAME
Brooklyn, NY LOCATION
Iâ€™m twenty-seven years old and pursuing my dream of being an artist and portrait painter in New York City. Raised in a small town in the Midwest, Iâ€™ve come so far as to make my family and home town proud. I was high school valedictorian, received merit-based scholarships in undergraduate and graduate school, and have always been motivated, hardworking, and dedicated to my goals. I have recently earned an MFA in Painting from a school in New York City, and am consequently heavily in debt from student loans. I am following my dream, despite the hard work and difficulty required. Although I work full time as an Artist Assistant, and supplement my income with freelance work and private commissions, I cannot afford health insurance. Any time I am sick, I just wait until I get better, a habit which once led to my having to see a throat specialist about an abscessed gland due to a throat infection left untreated. I had to pay the specialist with student loans. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was thirteen, an event which completely changed my understanding of mortality and created an awareness of the necessity of being vigilant in my own health as I age. Planned Parenthood has been a godsend for me in the past few years. I know because of the family history of breast cancer, I must be diligent in getting checkups and breast exams. Planned Parenthood has provided inexpensive, affordable preventative checkups for me. The doctors have always been thorough and kind, traits I have yet to observe at the numerous walk-in clinics I have been to in the past in New York City. Usually you get what you pay for, but my experience with Planned Parenthood has always been that I get so much MORE. The degree of care and support from the staff and doctors has always been the highest in my experience. I used to find getting annual examinations and breast exams a source of dread, but since going to Planned Parenthood here and back home, I have had the feelings of dread removed.
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When I was going to college I was not covered under insurance and school insurance was too much. I was able to go to Planned Parenthood to receive birth control, exams, and testing for low or no cost. Being on such a tight budget as a student I could not afford to get these services and birth control without their help and most likely wouldn’t have. At one of my screenings, a nurse found a lump in my breast. Not knowing much about how to conduct a breast exam myself I had not been able to find it. Because of my family history with breast cancer I had to be referred and ultimately required surgery to remove the tumor. I was very lucky it wasn’t cancerous but learned a lot from the program about breast and women’s health. Knowing their services exist gives me a peace of mind. I can’t tell you how many students I know used the services provided and I can’t imagine them not being available. This program can’t lose funding, it’s vital to too many people.
Kim L. NAME
Portland, ME LOCATION
Breast cancer runs in my family & I have had a yearly mammogram since I was in my late 20’s. I am an educated and hard working woman but my company does not provide health care insurance. I rely on Planned Parenthood for my annual mammogram. I cannot imagine the hardship that millions of women would experience were it not for this invaluable service.
10 Close to the Heart: Stories of Planned Parenthood Breast Care Patients
Rio Rancho, NM
Planned Parenthood has helped me many times over the years gain access to affordable health care when I had no insurance — I have used your offices in at least six different states. Most recently I used Planned Parenthood last year when I did have insurance, but couldn’t find an appropriate provider elsewhere. My provider left the practice she was working at, and the remaining doctor would not tell me where she went. I needed to have my annual exam done and needed to get a mammogram scheduled — my mother had breast cancer twice before the age of 35, and at 40, I made sure I got mine each year. I contacted my local Planned Parenthood office and they got me an appointment the next day. The nurse was amazing, and within a few days I was having my mammogram done. This is just one example of the dozens in my life where Planned Parenthood helped protect my health in a way that is affordable to someone without insurance, and convenient to one who does.
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Christa C. NAME
Rancho Cordova, CA LOCATION
Planned Parenthood is the BEST healthcare organization EVER!! I am a woman in my 40â€™s and like so many other Americans, I am without health insurance benefits. Also, like so many Americans, I fall into that awful middle socio-economic category where I earn too much money to qualify for state medical aid but not enough to pay for the exorbitant prices of medical care out-of-pocket. There is a history of breast cancer in my family and I have a cystic breast condition that makes it difficult to detect any unusual changes in my breast tissue without the aid of mammography. Being without health insurance and not having enough money to pay the high cost of a mammogram out-of-pocket, I would lay awake at night fearing that this new lump or that new lump in my breast was cancer. It was terrible. Then I went to Planned Parenthood and learned that they could provide me with my yearly mammogram. It was a miracle! It is a Godsend that Planned Parenthood has been able to provide me with basic womenâ€™s health services and yearly mammograms free of charge. Now I can sleep at night, knowing that the doctors have evaluated me and that I am cancer free. Of course, I always make a donation during my visits to help Planned Parenthood continue their important mission, but my small donations could not possibly compensate Planned Parenthood for the services they provide. Planned Parenthood needs funding! Planned Parenthood provides a variety of desperately needed medical services to all women (and some men too!). During this health care crisis, Planned Parenthood is one of the very few organizations in this country who truly help.
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Dana H. NAME
Richmond, VA LOCATION
I’m thankful that Planned Parenthood helped me when I needed them the most... for women’s health care that I couldn’t afford...During a breast exam, they found lumps and I was soon Dx with cancer. Without them, I may not have gotten the help I needed and survive to see my two healthy children grow up... Yes they provided me with the birth control I needed until I was ready to have my children. They have been there...my life line...my Planned Parenthood. Thanks.
Ellie R. NAME
St. Augustine, FL LOCATION
I owe my life to Planned Parenthood. When I could not afford to go to a physician for regular gynecological exams, Planned Parenthood provided them to me for a token amount. Thanks to them, my breast cancer was diagnosed in an early stage, and I am alive today.
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Dianna W. Albuquerque, NM NAME
Most of my family and friends never knew that about 4 or so years ago I had a breast cancer scare. I was a full time student, 38 year old single mom of 2 kids and had no insurance. I utilized the low cost/free services at my university for my yearly exams and it was there that the nurse found a “lump” she was concerned about and strongly suggested a mammogram. I spent the next 2 weeks attempting to find ANY low cost program to help me out. Being that I was UNDER 40, I was not considered to qualify for 99% of the programs out there. I cannot begin to explain the fear I lived with every day. Every phone call was met with a “sorry, we can’t help you.” Eventually I found, through the National Cancer Society, a link to Planned Parenthood. One call to them and they immediately found funding for me, made the appointment for an exam with them, which led to a referral for a mammogram. My mammogram was normal and the scare was just that — a scare. I cannot begin to explain the relief it was to have Planned Parenthood open and available to me. If it was more than a scare we all know how important early detection is. If I had not been able to utilize this program, I truly do not know how I would have found the money for the testing needed.
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Lisa S. NAME
Boulder, CO LOCATION
I have just come through treatment for breast cancer. I want people to know that it was Planned Parenthood that referred me to get diagnostic tests on a breast lump and then helped me to be a part of a program for women over 40 without insurance. Without Planned Parenthoodâ€™s help, I would not have been diagnosed and treated for this disease. I have only used Planned Parenthood for my female health care since I was 16 years old. I am so thankful for the excellence of this organization. This organization is about healthy people, healthy families and healthy society. Planned Parenthood saves lives.
Before I could afford health insurance I went to Planned Parenthood for affordable birth control pills. They do such a great service of providing affordable & NECESSARY health care for women. I would have totally neglected regular pap smears if I didnâ€™t have Planned Parenthood as an option when I was younger. Planned Parenthood even detected a lump in my breast & helped me go through the Komen Fund to have the benign lump tested & removed.
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Dianne P. NAME
Albu querque, NM LOCATION
Planned Parenthood provided my only medical care between the ages of 18-24. My job did not provide insurance, and since I was not a student living with my parents, I could not be covered under their insurance. Planned Parenthood provided annual exams to reassure me that the lumps in my fibrocystic breasts were not tumors.
Laurie B. NAME
Seaside, CA LOCATION
Planned Parenthood diagnosed my breast cancer, then told me about and helped me apply for a program that I had never heard of which made it possible for me to afford treatment for the cancer. Since I had no medical insurance (prior back problems have rendered me uninsurable), I would not have been able to receive treatment without the help of which they informed me. I am alive today due to their good work. Thank you!
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When my grandmother died of breast cancer and my mother survived, Planned Parenthood was where I went for cancer screenings since I was now in an at risk group. I continued my yearly cancer screenings during my early 20’s when I couldn’t afford insurance. I could never have kept up with the cost of the potentially life-saving screenings without Planned Parenthood’s low costs.
Kelly O. NAME
Litchﬁeld, CT LOCATION
I am a 20 year old female. My mom has breast cancer. Two other women in my family also have breast cancer. I have a very high chance of seeing the same fate. Planned Parenthood allows me to get breast exams every year and to be sure that I am going to make it to the age where I will be able to see my children grow up. I want to have kids and I want to live. Planned Parenthood is making this affordable and possible for me.
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Leigh H. NAME
Tannersville, PA LOCATION
A few years back when I was 26 yrs old I went for my annual visit @ Planned Parenthood. Also I did not have health insurance and still do not today. So while doing the breast exam, the doctor noticed an obvious lump. We discussed what the smartest next step was to take with this situation. I agreed w/ her 100% but the first thing that came to my mind was “How am I ever going to pay for all this?” They informed me about the Healthy Woman Program and the Susan Komen Foundation Program that would help out generously. I continued to go to the referred doctor who did biopsies and even wanted me to get a second opinion just to be sure. Over what seemed like countless months I had the lump removed and thank God it came back benign. It was a very scary time for me but knowing that these programs allowed me to tend to this situation because I made such minimal income was such a gift. I still look back and don’t know what I would’ve been able to do if they didn’t help me the way they did. Thank You.
Marjorie H. Vancouver, WA NAME
Their name says it all: “Planned Parenthood.” Without them, I shudder to think; the lessons I learned from their doctors saved me from advanced breast cancer just last year; the habits I formed helped me prevent pregnancy and maintain my body past menopause. There aren’t enough words to express our deep gratitude to the organization.
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Belinda B. NAME
Westminster, CO LOCATION
My local Planned Parenthood doctor helped me learn how to properly perform a self breast exam. This might sound like a small skill, but when my doctor found a lump in my right breast, it was a big, big deal to me. I knew something was odd by the look on her face. I was 32 with no history of breast cancer on either side of my family. As a woman in my 30’s, I was doing as I had been told — self breast exams every month or so. But if you’ve never felt a lump, it can be tricky to know what you are feeling for. It is embarrassing to say this aloud, but had there not been a Planned Parenthood within a couple miles of my house with weekend hours, I probably would not have gone in for months, even another year due to my work schedule. Your health should come first, but when you’re a healthy and busy working adult, you tend to forget how quickly time flies. Had I not gone in for my checkup, I wouldn’t have known about the lump. And while it was determined to be benign, the knowledge that I have a lump in my breast and the skill of knowing what a lump feels like in the future, I value my Planned Parenthood for helping me stay a healthy woman.
Pete M. NAME
Charlottesville, VA LOCATION
17 years ago, my wife went to Planned Parenthood (her only health care provider at the time) for a routine annual physical. Her nurse discovered a pea sized lump in her breast that, when biopsied, turned out to be early stage (ductal carcinoma in situ) breast cancer. That early detection of breast cancer at the time saved her from much more radical treatment that would have resulted from later detection, and very possibly saved her life. For that, we are eternally grateful to that nurse and to Planned Parenthood.
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As a young woman at university in Florida, I needed affordable access to a gynecologist for Pap smears, contraceptives and breast exams. Planned Parenthood could be reached on my only form of transportation, a bicycle. My older sister was diagnosed and later died of breast cancer. The regular checkups and breast self-exams taught by these caring individuals allowed me to be educated with the current research on breast cancer and early detection. I was able to assure myself, my mother and sisters that I was getting the best level of early detection and examination needed for a sibling of a woman with terminal breast cancer. I am grateful for that early training as I later developed a lump that I detected through a monthly self-exam. I am a well-woman due in part to access to the services of Planned Parenthood.
Michelle S. Sparks, NV NAME
Here’s my story. First of all I have been using the services at Planned Parenthood since 1973 in various forms. I moved back to Reno Nevada in 07 —had been told a week prior that my insurance with my job from California accidentally did not follow. One morning, I felt 5 lumps on my left breast. PANIC. To make a long story short I went to my PLANNED PARENTHOOD office; was hysterical; got examined…whirlwind after that with mammograms, labs and more stuff. The staff were always kind and supportive —matter of fact set me up with SUSAN KOMEN foundation. Had it not been for PLANNED PARENTHOOD I don’t know what I would have done.
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Colleen L. NAME
Loudonville, NY LOCATION
When I was 27, I was laid off from the small technology start-up I was working for. The engineering department had to make some cuts, and I was it. I decided not to take the COBRA insurance, because I felt my good health and good education would see me through to my next job. I was wrong. I soon found a lump in my breast. I called all around, trying to find a place to perform a cheap breast exam. But all the gynecologists needed referrals, and the primary care physicians cost too much for me to afford. I almost ignored the lump. How serious could it have been? I was 27 and had no family history of any kind of cancer. Then I remembered Planned Parenthood, and how they had sliding scales. Since I had no income at all, and dwindling savings, this was a great option for me. I didn’t have to decide between breast care and rent. Planned Parenthood took such good care of me. They gave me some great advice about reducing the density in my breasts, and told me to come back in a month if the lump was still there. It was. So they quickly set me up with a mammogram. The mammogram turned up something, so they set me up with an ultrasound. The ultrasound showed the lump was suspicious, so they performed a biopsy. Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Free of charge. There is no doubt in my mind that Planned Parenthood saved my life. I’m 34 now, with a good job, a great husband, a wonderful house, and in great health! But at the one point in my life when I needed help, Planned Parenthood was there to give it to me. Not only did they help me out financially, they performed a great service by not poo-pooing the lump or its seriousness. I hear horror stories about young women who go undiagnosed for years, greatly decreasing their chances for survival. People always tell me how great it was that I didn’t have to go through that. “Who was your doctor?” they ask. And I proudly answer, “Planned Parenthood.”
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Michelle C. NAME
Sacramento, CA LOCATION
About 3 years ago, I went in for my annual. During the breast examination, the female doctor paused and asked me about the noticeable lump in my left breast. She explained to me that she was going to schedule an aspiration to see if there was fluid in it, which would have been a good indication that it was a cyst. If there wasn’t any fluid, it could be cause for concern. When she did the needle aspiration, no fluid came out. Well, I thought, this is officially time to freak out. I didn’t have health insurance, seeing as I was working a crappy low paying front desk position at, ironically, a doctor’s office. Not to mention my grandmother had breast cancer. She calmly told me that she would refer me to an imaging center for further testing. The clinic continued to communicate with me about the status of my referral. Finally, a month and a half later, I was able to get into a very nice imaging center. They made me feel so comfortable as they performed an ultrasound and later a mammogram. The results showed that the lump had disappeared. If it weren’t for Planned Parenthood, I would have gone into debt just to get tested. They gave me peace of mind. This is only a small favor they have done me out of all the years of annuals, birth control and testing to make sure I stay healthy. Planned Parenthood makes keeping healthy a lot easier than most “free” or low-cost clinics. That is so crucial to so many people in this economy. Because being healthy isn’t a privilege, it should be a right of every single person in America.
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Stefanie J. NAME
Houston , T X LOCATION
Planned Parenthood was there for me. At the time, I was working part-time and had no health care available to me through my employer. I went there for an annual exam and the doctor found a lump in my breast. Can you imagine the shock I had at 23 years old... being told that I have a lump in my breast?? Breast cancer runs in my family, so this finding absolutely FLOORED me. The doctor examined the area several times and advised that I should have a 2nd opinion. She also had me feel the area myself to confirm what she had found. This doctor also was able to refer me to a couple of different specialists in order to have it checked out thoroughly. To make a long story short, I went and had the 2nd opinion. After an exam and having an ultrasound completed, I had to have a biopsy completed. Luckily, the biopsy came back benign. I really wish I knew that doctorâ€™s name so I could put it in this letter. She found something that no doctors before her had ever found. I owe her soooooooo much. I feel like, in some way, she may have saved my life that day. Thank you Planned Parenthood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Photos: Hugh Siegel/PPFA
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