Racing For a Cure
How your participation helps fund breast health services
Twice in her life, Michelle Allen has found a lump in her breast.
Michelle Allen of Davenport, a breast
cancer survivor, has received
mammograms and other breast health
services with the help of funds raised
from the annual Komen Quad Cities
Race for the Cure.®
The first time, the single mother of three children was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was in 2007, and her months of medical treatment were covered by Medicaid. It was a scary time for her and her sons, but she underwent the months of chemotherapy and radiation with courage and beat the disease.
The second time she found a lump was far scarier, she says.
That discovery was just last month, and this time she had no medical card or private insurance. Before she even called her oncologist, she was consumed by thoughts of how she would pay for cancer treatment if needed. In fact, the utter impossibility of paying for thousands of dollars in medical care weighed more heavily on her mind than the prospect of fighting breast cancer a second time.
“It was very, very stressful,” says Allen, 42, of Davenport. “My biggest fear was that I would go to the doctor to get the lump checked out and be turned away. I thought more about how I would pay for treatment than I did about the challenges of fighting cancer again a second time.”
Fortunately, Michelle Allen called her oncologist; had a biopsy; and learned her lump was a benign cyst, not breast cancer.
“I give the credit to God,” she says. “I prayed and prayed and know that He is a healer.”
But the feeling of financial helplessness she initially felt illustrates why she is grateful to the more than 10,000 runners and walkers who participate each year in the Komen Quad Cities Race for the Cure.®
It’s their local support -- money raised from the Quad Cities race -- that helped Allen receive mammograms and a breast biopsy at a time she didn’t have insurance. Those services brought her and her sons peace of mind each time they had affirmation that her breast cancer hadn’t returned.
The local race, to be held this year on June 8, is a major fundraiser of the Quad Cities Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure ®, which dispenses grant money to help fund breast health services for women in need. Among those grant recipients is the Voucher Programs, which gives the gift of early detection through mammograms and breast ultrasounds. The program is administered by Genesis.
Allen was first helped by the Voucher Programs a couple of years after she had breast cancer.
“I was cut off Medicaid because my financial circumstances changed, but I still couldn’t afford health insurance to help pay for follow-up mammograms,” Allen says. “I knew I needed regular, follow-up mammograms but didn’t know how I would pay for it. A nurse told me about the Voucher Programs. It was a relief to know I could still take care of myself.”
Then last month when she needed a biopsy to determine if her second, newly discovered breast lump was cancerous, she received funding help from Scott County Care for Yourself.
Although it may sound complicated, it was all made easy for Allen when she was connected with Genesis oncology-certified nurse Stef Dreher, R.N., who coordinates the Voucher Programs and guided her through the process.
If Allen had been diagnosed with breast cancer, she was assured she would be connected to other federal resources to help pay for treatment.
The Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act gives women diagnosed with a pre-cancerous or cancerous breast or cervical condition access to Medicaid benefits during the treatment period, as long as they have received mammography services paid by Susan G. Komen funds or received services through the National Breast and Cervical Center Early Detection Program before diagnosis.
“Stef has been awesome,” Allen says. “It was a relief to know I would be covered if I was diagnosed with breast cancer again. I would be able to concentrate on getting better instead of being overwhelmed by medical bills. When I had my biopsy in April, they discovered my blood pressure was way too high. Stef also helped me get in to see a physician so I could get the medication I needed. She went above and beyond to help me.”
Racing for a Cure
Since 1990, the local Komen Quad Cities Race for the Cure ® has raised more than $5 million. Up to 75 percent of net proceeds have been used for local programs, with 25 percent going to fund breast cancer research.
“Each year, money raised from the race helps eliminate the financial barriers that prevent individuals from receiving a mammogram,” Dreher says. “We see women and men who are without insurance or who can’t pay their insurance deductibles. When faced with the decision to pay for food and other bills or have a yearly screening, they often choose not to have the mammogram. Our program helps individuals who have expressed a need.”
Dreher adds, “The majority of people who have a mammogram receive a normal result. We want people to get screened and to enjoy the peace of mind of being able to say ‘I’m fine.’”
For 2013-2014, the Voucher Programs also received grants to provide breast prostheses, special bras, camisoles, and medical alert bracelets.
“I thank God I am healed,” Michelle Allen says. “I also thank the staff at the Genesis Cancer Care Institute and the Center for Breast Health, medical oncologist Dr. George Kovach, surgeon Dr. Michael Phelps and radiation oncologist Dr. Antonio Vigliotti and their staffs for really caring about me during my fight with breast cancer. I also had so much support from family and friends.”
She has new appreciation for the Komen Quad Cities Race for the Cure® and of the awareness and money it raises for breast health services.
“I did a presentation on breast cancer awareness when I went back to college, and I said, ‘If you don’t have insurance, there are resources out there. Ask for help. Get checked out and keep up with your screenings. If you feel a lump, don’t delay in seeing a doctor. There’s help out there if you need it.’”
For more information
The Voucher Programs is open to any person within the service area of the Quad Cities Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure®: Clinton, Scott, Muscatine and Cedar counties in Iowa and Whiteside, Henry, Rock Island and Mercer counties in Illinois. For information, call Stef Dreher at (563) 421-1913 or 1-888-598-7140.