Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Message to all fellow Cancer Survivors: “GET CHECKED AGAIN!”

By: Arnaldo Silva
Edited by: NYCRA writing staff

I am writing this to all my brothers at the MBCC and all cancer survivors hoping to share the benefits of my recent health scare experience with you.

About six months ago, I found a pressured lump on my right side and my belly grew bloated like a rock. I have seen several doctors from my plan including a gastroenterologist who (I felt) undermined what I was feeling by sending me off with pills just to make me comfortable. Over time, I began to notice the lump on my right side had grown to the size of a mango. Peggy (Miller) and Cheri (Ambrose), our fearless leaders found cause for concern - enough to scramble to get more information and an appointment with cancer imaging specialist Dr. Robert Bard.

I wish to note that as a survivor of breast cancer, the stress of recurrence was overwhelming. I didn't make a fuss publicly about it partly because after breast cancer, I was told I was cancer free -- even though deep inside I've always felt "there's no such thing as cancer free". I also feared that this new condition may be related somehow.

If I learned something from this entire experience, the “Get Checked Now!” button I got from this year's MBCC conference really pushed the message about staying proactive for prevention and early detection checkups. It also meant staying alert about any possible traces of recurrence. We all need to stay vigilant against illness because cancer has been known to surprise you down the road.

Lennard Gettz of NYCRA (NY Cancer Resource Alliance) joined my case by guiding me to put my medical records together, lining up some possible options and discussing my condition with Dr. Bard and other doctors from the group as far as what my condition could be. He and my other “guardian angels” also explored how to get more specialists involved by switching my medicare from an HMO into a PPO. Cheri introduced me to Bob Wasky or the Wasky Group (NJ), a medicare expert who explained the difference and why I need better coverage than what the system threw at me during my retirement.

Dr. Bard was recognized by the MBCC as our first clinical advisor. His office in NYC became the first male-friendly breast cancer screening center and is most knowledgeable about men issues pertaining to breast, prostate and other cancers. He set up the “Second Opinion” program which was perfect for me because I had been checked by several doctors but I was not confident about their findings. In fact, between the (weak) coverage I had, I felt I needed to get a more trusted second opinion and a scan.

Dr. Bard was extremely thorough and I found him to be the best man for the job. He didn’t stop at the focus areas; Dr. Bard even scanned my lymph nodes, my bladder, lungs and other areas where cancer might happen. What he found was a benign tumor- what they call a LIPOMA that is not cancer related (whew!) and the bloating may be managed with a certain type of food adjustment. His set of images gave me real peace of mind and a good place to start. On the same day, I took home a copy of the scan which gave me the control I needed to address this further with others if it got worse.

This experience taught me a lot. Being alive today to learn a lesson is a good place to be! I learned to upgrade my insurance plan and how a “good deal” may be so limited when you need it most (especially for someone with a pre-existing condition).  I learned that not all doctors are the same- and settling for the doctors on your plan may not always be enough. Most importantly, I learned to never keep something like this to yourself ever again. Get other people involved, get their opinions and surround yourself with smart people who care.

When it comes to our health, TIME is everything. Like they say at the MTA, if you see something, say something... and don't stop until you're SAFE! (edited by NYCRA writing team)


Extra: Video Seminar
Cancer Recurrence Prevention 101

Watch this FREE presentation delivered by Dr. Jesse A. Stoff, Immunology Specialist at the 2019 Male Breast Cancer Coalition Conference. It covers the major fundamentals to reduce your risk of getting cancer or the recurrence of cancer. Seminar Link 

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