Voices of Impact – Andrea Wesley
Andrea Wesley, Loxahatchee, FL - Survivor, Advocate
“Before I could even secure a job and health insurance I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time!”
“Some people with insurance don’t have their testing, physician consults and treatments organized and started within such a short time-frame after diagnosis, but because of my Komen Angel, Delmarie, I was expeditiously and efficiently navigated through the healthcare system.”
In 2007, when I was 37 years old and still living in Jamaica, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was devastated! My only experience with breast cancer had been when I watched a close family friend, who had been diagnosed 10 years before, slowly die from the disease. She was living with our family at the time, and I would hear her cry out to God for help every night, her body racked with pain. Before her death, there were many nights that I cried and prayed with her, and I have to be honest – I also prayed that God would spare me from ever having to go through what Miss Pearl was going through!
So when I received the news that I too had breast cancer, I envisioned myself wasting away and dying a very painful death! Luckily, unlike Miss Pearl, I had health insurance so I received treatment for my breast cancer. I had a mastectomy, chemotherapy and a year later, reconstruction. After all of my treatment was complete, my nine-year-old daughter Alexia and I were so excited that our challenging and scary time with cancer was FINALLY behind us! We celebrated, determined to never look back!
Fast forward to 2011. I’m now the ripe old age of 41. I’ve just moved to the United States, excited to continue my career as a police officer. Before I could even secure a job and health insurance I was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time! Immediately visions of my friend and her tragic death floated before my eyes!!! This time, like poor Miss Pearl, I had no health insurance so it seemed very likely to me that I would follow in her sad footsteps. My sister Alma and I called every hospital, clinic, society, organization, church, and doctor’s office that we could think of, asking for help. Each time we were told that nothing could be done for someone without health insurance. We felt so helpless and hopeless, and had just about given up when a doctor’s office called back and gave me the name of a Komen South Florida Affiliate-funded Breast Health Navigator at Bethesda Women’s Health Center. I really didn’t expect for Delmarie Butler to call us back, and even if she did, I figured, it would be more of the same, “I’m sorry but…”
Delmarie Butler did call back and patiently listened to my story. She set up a meeting for us on the following business day which was a Monday – that was the longest weekend of my life! Miracle Monday is when I heard the FANTASTIC news that I would receive help for my treatment through Komen South Florida Affiliate grant funding. I couldn’t believe my ears and could barely contain my excitement – I was being given a third chance at life despite my lack of health insurance! Within that week Delmarie had set it up for me to have lab work, a bilateral breast MRI, CT scan of the chest and brain, a PET scan, genetic testing, and a consult with a world-renowned Medical Oncologist, Dr. Elisabeth McKeen.
The following week I consulted with Dr. Sonali Pandya, a breast surgeon and Dr. Vinay Sharma, a radiation oncologist and after they all conferred, my individualized treatment was started – all within three weeks of me having first heard the beautiful and powerful name, Susan G. Komen! Some people with insurance don’t have their testing, physician consults and treatments organized and started within such a short time-frame after diagnosis, but because of my Komen Angel, Delmarie, I was expeditiously and efficiently navigated through the health care system.
Here is the bottom line… you all don’t know it, but EVEN THOUGH YOU DON’T KNOW ME, YOU SAVED MY LIFE, and for that I am truly, forever in your debt! It is because of the generosity of people like you that I have the opportunity to raise my daughter, who is now 12 years old. I will be able to celebrate at her high school and college graduations. Because of YOU I will be able dance at my baby’s wedding and then hold her babies when God blesses her with them. You don’t know me, but by supporting the South Florida Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, you have given me the precious and priceless gift of life, and time with my daughter! For this all I can say is a sincere and heartfelt thank you, and I beg you to continue to stand with Komen so that other women like me have a chance at life!
About the author
Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.