A Letter from Laura Friedman
It was a pleasure meeting the ladies of Bowling For Boobies last month. I was very moved by the warm welcome and genuine concern of the women, and I admire the group’s commitment to helping those affected by breast cancer.
In March, quite by accident, I discovered a large lump in my breast. As I am under 40 years old, and have no family history of gynecological cancers, none of my doctors had ever suggested that I have a mammogram. I have since learned that it is very rare to develop breast cancer before the age of 40, and that breast cancers in young women tend to be more aggressive, and diagnosed at a later state, than those of older women.
Luckily, my primary doctor took the situation seriously, and ordered an immediate mammogram and ultra sound. The technician administering the test called the doctor into the room, which I have now learned is always bad news. Three very suspicious lesions were found, which the doctor told me were most probably cancerous.
In an emotional haze, I was sent to a breast surgeon, who biopsied the two largest lumps. The biopsy confirmed breast cancer. Because the pathology came back that the tumor was the very most aggressive type (score 9 out of 9 on the “BM scale”), An MRI, bone scan and CT scan were ordered to be sure it had not already metastasized. Waiting for the results of those scans was probably the most terrifying week of my life. Luckily, the tests were all negative, meaning that although my cancer is intermediate stage, it is still considered curable.
As I had three separate tumors in different parts of the breast, a lumpectomy was not possible. In April I had a mastectomy. It’s bizarre to feel lucky in the middle of treatment for breast cancer, but I awoke from my operation to good news: the cancer had not spread into my lymph nodes. On the flip side, two additional areas of cancer were found in my breast.
From May until last week I endured the most intense chemotherapy regimen currently used for early stage breast cancer. It was a horrible experience, but I was again lucky not to have experienced any bad infections or lasting side effects. Because premenopausal breast cancer patients are at higher risk of other gynecological cancers, and because my tumors were “fed” by estrogen, I will be undergoing a complete hysterectomy and ooperectomy this year, to be followed by five years of a drug which will remove all the remaining estrogen from my body.
The prospect of entering permanent menopause at 39 has been a real challenge for me. The loss of so much estrogen means that I will immediately have a higher risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, weight gain, and other issues. I feel as though cancer is robbing me of my youth, health, and my womanhood.
Five years ago I left my job as a motion picture development executive to try to make it as an independent film producer. I also started my own business selling vintage art glass, mainly from Italy . Five years ago I also married a wonderful man who, three years ago, gave up his longtime career as a film editor to start his own landscape design company. Both businesses have been a struggle financially, but each were growing, and emotionally very rewarding.
I have always been a successful and self reliant woman. However, when my husband and I took the gamble of starting our own businesses, we never dreamed that a serious illness would interfere with our plans. I have not been able to devote any time to my business since March, and my husband’s business is too young to support us. We are now over $19,000 in debt to our home equity line of credit, which has a variable interest rate currently charging 8.5% interest. We have private Blue Cross insurance, but with a very high deductible and co-pay. I have paid almost $7,000 in medical bills to date. I am told that Blue Cross will likely double my deductible and co-pay next year, which they can do because we are not under the protection of being in a group plan.
As much as I hate to ask for help, I realize that my health is digging us into a hole from which it will be very difficult to recover. I have spent most of this year so focused on getting through my treatments that I have not even started to think about how I am going to pay for everything. Any assistance that the Foundation can offer will be most gratefully appreciated.
I am extremely grateful for your consideration, and for the work that you do for all women.