A Survivor’s Story: Albie Aware Saved My Life
ALBIE AWARE SAVED MY LIFE by Jana Schumm
My story started early April of 2014. I was lying in bed one night and my beloved cat kept nudging the right side of my chest and meowing. After awhile the sight that my cat was nudging began to hurt. I felt the spot and I felt a small fibrous type lump. I tried not to dwell and went to sleep with the thought that I would face it in the morning. The next day I went to work at the salon where I worked as an Esthetician. I asked a friend and coworker to come into my room and feel my suspicious lump to see if she felt the lump since often times I can be a bit of a hypochondriac. When she felt the right side of my breast, her eyes told me everything. She got tears in her eyes and said “this is a very large lump Jana”…. My heart stopped and the day became a series of phone calls. Just like many small business owners, I did not have health insurance. I postponed years of mammograms and never thought of breast cancer. In the back of my mind, I would occasionally think of those pink ribbons but, it was something that I would do get to when I had the time and money. I left work that day and begged god to guide me through this terrifying and unknown process. Not having insurance, I was lost and I knew my friends’ eyes told me to move fast. I made many fruitless phone calls to organizations that no longer existed or had a long waiting list. After hours of panic , I received a phone call from a friend that gave me the phone number of Albie Aware. I was immediately connected with Karen at Albie Aware and from the beginning her voice calmed my nerves that were beyond frazzled. Being a breast cancer survivor herself, she understood all my fears and my urgency to get checked immediately. Not only did Karen arrange for my mammogram downtown, she also offered to meet me there.
Time stood still while I awaited my mammogram. I met Karen in the waiting room on my appointment day and her calming spirit immediately calmed me down. It seemed like the mammogram took forever. They kept coming back in requesting different angles. I think I knew right then I was in trouble, but I kept hope. Karen’s calm voice stayed with me in that room. I can’t remember the sequence of events now but, the end result was two words – Needle Biopsy.
What was I going to do now ? This remarkable lady with Albie Aware went out of her way to arrange my mammogram, have it funded and meet me there. How would I tell her that I now needed an expensive needle biopsy. …. and, what did that mean ?? Suddenly those distant pink ribbons took over every thought in my mind. I called Karen again and told her my outcome. I remember crying, asking her if I was going to die. I did not know anyone that had to have a needle biopsy. Again, Karen’s strong, calm voice reassured my racing mind. She told me that she would have to talk to the board to arrange funding. I can’t remember how many days went by but, Karen called me regularly to check on me and even offered for me to meet up her and another breast cancer survivor from Albie Aware. She gave me hope in my darkest nightmare.
The board members came to a quick decision to fund my needle biopsy and they saved my life. I know that they are a small organization and do not have limitless funds. Now looking back, the radiologist’s eyes told me my fate but, I had to wait that long week for results. I was in regular contact with Karen that week. She openly discussed her breast cancer journey and again, her strength and resiliency gave me hope. A week later my results were read to me by my family doctor. Stage 3 Her2 , estrogen positive breast cancer. Suddenly my life turned into unknown words like mastectomy, chemo, red-devil, axillary dissection, .. on and on.
It is hard to believe that it has been a year. It seems like it has been a lot longer than that. On each milestone , I was able to talk to Karen and voice my fears. The unknown is always the worst. I have gotten through the mastectomy, the auxiliary dissection, multiple rounds of chemo and I am now undergoing reconstructive surgery.
It is always on my mind to give back one day when I am healthy again. I want to be like Karen and give the next person hope. I will be forever grateful to Albie Aware. They saved my life and made my fearful journey personal. I will be forever thankful for this amazing organization. I cannot even imagine the hours and special people behind the funding that they gave me.
My cat is sitting beside me as I am typing this story. Sometimes when we are in our battle, we forget to let others know how thankful we are. I am forever thankful to Albie Aware for saving my life. You will be forever in my heart.