When I got the call two years ago, I knew in my heart that this time, it was going to be different. After years of check-ups, mammograms, biopsies and ultrasounds, I was used to my doctor calling to give me the results of my tests. But in early October 2014, when my doctor had promised a 10:00 a.m. call and the phone finally rang at 10:20, I remember thinking: This is it; this is the positive biopsy.
I’ve been a fitness and health advocate for decades now. As a runner, tennis player and downhill skier, I enjoy staying active during every season in northern Michigan. But seven years ago, when my sister Robin was diagnosed with breast cancer, my doctors began to watch me like a hawk, cancer doesn’t play by the rules. Based on their advice, I began to do everything I could to lower my risk for a similar diagnosis—as a mother of two, I wanted to be as proactive as possible.
After years of appointments and tests, receiving that call almost felt like a weight was being taken off my shoulders: The previous years had been full of concerning tests and questionable scans and it had felt like I was just waiting to hear that I had cancer. The dread was really wearing on me, which is why in a crazy way, finally getting a positive result felt like a bit of a relief.
I’m one of the lucky ones – I had caught my cancer early due to regular checkups and it hadn’t spread. When I got the call from my doctor, I already had my mind made up about what my method of treatment would be. So on Halloween, 2014, at 46 years old (the same age my sister was at her diagnosis), I went under the knife. I chose to get a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction all at once—the decision seemed simple to me, I wanted to do the most aggressive treatment I could the first time around.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that I’m all about early detection. Getting my diagnosis when I did meant I didn’t need radiation or chemotherapy. I get that it’s scary to get tests done, but I tell my friends: “If you’re scared, I will drive you to your appointment and I will take you to lunch afterward.” That always seems to work!
Throughout all of this, I felt so lucky to have the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan coverage I did and to have doctors who were committed to my case. Even with all of me the doctors’ appointments and the surgery, I didn’t have to make a single call about payment complications. For such an extensive surgery, the whole process felt really smooth. All of my doctors and the people at Blue Cross seemed to work hand-in-hand, like everyone was on-board and very supportive of my decision.
After my double mastectomy, I had a pretty quick recovery. I was out running six weeks after my surgery and out on the tennis court three months later. What’s different for me now? After going through this, I feel like I can handle pretty much anything. Nobody should have to deal with a cancer diagnosis, but it happens and all you can do is try your hardest to get through it and give all you’ve got.
While I know cancer could come back, I don’t let that rule my life – I want to live my life to the fullest.
Amy’s story is just one example of why Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan supports preventive mammography screenings and procedures. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Blue Cross shares stories like Amy’s as an effort to build awareness around the benefits of preventive care and screenings.
“I am very glad to hear that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan played a positive role in supporting this person’s courageous and successful fight with breast cancer,” said Dr. Thomas Simmer, SVP and chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “We understand that everyone dealing with a major illness needs to focus on health and family issues, not struggling with coverage. BCBSM’s policy on bilateral mastectomy recognizes that some patients have a very high likelihood of developing breast cancer and that bilateral mastectomy may be the very best intervention to secure a healthy future.”
This post is part of a storytelling series we call, “Beyond the Card.” These stories will feature Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan members, employees, and communities who are making meaningful differences throughout our state.
We invite you to follow Beyond the Card stories here at MIBluesPerspectives.com and through the hashtag, #BeyondtheCard on our social channels. If you have a story you would like to share, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.