Breast and Cervical Health Check
March 25, Phone Interview
Patty DeLay recalls vividly the day she learned that she’d
been diagnosed with breast cancer. Patty, who’d recently
moved from her hometown in Westin, Oregon to the Kenai Peninsula
town of Nikiski drove home thinking “what could be worse
than this?” Later that day, she learned: It was September
11, a day history will remember for the terrorist attacks on
the United States.
had only been in Nikiski a couple of months and aside from her
fiancé, she had yet to make friends. Still, the small
coastal community reminded her of home and she enjoyed living
her diagnosis, Patty at first had to rely on her own resources.
She recalled that when her daughter had discovered a lump in
her breast at 17, she had been seen at a Planned Parenthood
clinic. Patty tracked down the phone number for Planned Parenthood
of Soldotna and soon had an appointment.
Parenthood enrolls women in “Breast & Cervical Health
Check” the State of Alaska’s Breast & Cervical
Cancer Early Detection Program. Patty was eligible for services
and was promptly enrolled in the program.
care provider’s first thought that Patty’s lump
was not cancerous because she reported some pain – usually
a lump is painless. However, a biopsy determined the lump was
is no breast cancer on my side of the family. I was shocked.
When I heard him say the word ‘cancer’ that’s
the end of what I heard,” Patty says.
she wasn’t alone. Patty was one of the first BCHC patients
to be referred to Medicaid, which pays for the treatment for
BCHC enrolled women. “Without it (Medicaid-covered treatment)
people wouldn’t get treatment,” Patty said.
Parenthood of Soldotna took care of the paperwork and scheduled
Patty’s examinations, treatment and follow-up care. She
remains grateful for the team approach. “When you are
going through something like that, you are not thinking. You
are just kind of numb,” said Patty.
clinic scheduled her seven-week stay at an Anchorage hospital
and arranged for vouchers to cover air and taxi costs. Patty
was also offered the numbers of local women who had gone through
breast cancer and were willing to share their stories to help
others. “As shy as I am, I didn’t use it (the local
support network,” Patty says.
reaction is not uncommon. Experts say that individual counseling
and support groups for cancer patients, their families and children
aren’t for everyone. Still others gain insight and encouragement
from the groups. Your local hospital or public health center
can help you find a cancer support group or you may call the
American Cancer Society (at 800) ACS-2345.
to Alaska changed Patty’s life and confronting breast
cancer became part of the challenge. The diagnosis and treatment,
she says, made her realize that “no one is truly alone.”
think you’re not dependent on anyone but you really are.”
Patty says. She recalls crying after her mastectomy –
and realizing again how much her finance loved her when he reminded
her that surgery had saved her life. “I cried when my
hair fell out. He said ‘you knew it was going to happen.’
He went out and bought me a wig. He was very supportive,”
might change your appearance,” Patty reminds us, “but
it doesn’t change who you are.”