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breast cancer

SURVIVOR

LisaFitter PAYS IT FORWARD

By Melanie Otero

Imagine you’re the mother of young children hearing the news that your mammogram shows an abnormality. Because of pre-existing health conditions, you have no insurance to pay for the follow-up tests that could give you a sigh of relief or confirm your worst fears. The cost of biopsies, MRIs and ultrasounds is so far beyond your reach that you don’t know how you will ever pay for the tests that could save your life. This was the distressing scenario that Wellington resident Lisa Fitter faced in 2013 when she was 47 years old. “When you don’t have insurance, you don’t realize how far out of reach healthcare is,” Fitter said. Fitter’s situation is a common one for Susan G. Komen Florida. Every week, calls come into the organization from women — and sometimes men — desperately needing financial assistance to pay for the screenings, testing and treatment that could save their lives. Answering their urgent pleas for help is why Komen Florida calls itself the “first responders to breast cancer.” In Fitter’s case, it was the Bethesda Women’s Health Center that let her know Komen offered financial support for the tests she needed. Fitter’s follow-up was paid for by Komen, and on Christmas Eve 2013, she received her official breast cancer diagnosis. While it was a shock, Fitter no longer had to live with the unknown. She could now move forward and focus on

Lisa Fitter with her dau ghter Talia.

treatment. “If there were no Komen, I honestly don’t know what we would have done,” she said. “You hate to think that you would ever be in that situation.” Fitter’s next challenge was figuring out how to tell her twins, 10-year-olds Talia and Joshua. They had just completed a project at school about diseases people can die from. One of them was cancer. Fitter opted to be very open with her children. She wanted to be direct and help them understand as much as they could. “You can’t hide it,” she said. “Suddenly, you have a house full of people bringing you meals, you’re lying in bed all day, you’re going to the hospital. Children will sense something is going on. You can’t overload them with information, but they have to know that mommy is sick right now. You can figure out how much they can cope with.” Fitter was fortunate. Her breast cancer was early stage and contained. She had a bi-lateral mastectomy with no

need for chemotherapy. The timing of her surgery coincided with the Affordable Care Act, guaranteeing that she could receive insurance coverage even though she had a pre-existing condition. Even so, Fitter knew that if she had no insurance, “Komen would have been there for me.” The friends Fitter has made in the Wellington community were also there for her. When she moved to Wellington in 2005, she found it to be a welcoming, family-centered community, perfect for her own young family — a strong benefit she shares with those looking to move into the area as a Realtor with the K Company. The circle of friends she made when her children were in preschool came together to rally around her during her breast cancer journey. They were also there for her last year when she celebrated her fourth cancer-free anniversary on Feb. 10, 2018, gathering together in her kitchen, where her daughter Talia recited a poem she had written. wellington the magazine | january 2019

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